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Independents' Day

Help ­ I'm drowning in paperwork

Despite my best intentions, I have found myself overwhelmed with paperwork. What can I do to help keep my desk clear?

Paper can contain important information, but the important pieces are often buried in piles of routine material. The more our paperwork is out of control, the longer we take to find the important items. We may not know which is the latest version of a particular document. What we really need is a triage system for paper.

 · Have a central library area with a designated librarian.

 · Keep one central copy of reference documents and manuals, not one per partner.

 · When an update to a document or book arrives, the librarian should bin or archive the old one.

 · The underlying principle of a paperwork triage system is that routine items should be filed or binned as quickly as possible. You can then concentrate on the really important stuff because the clutter is out of the way.

 · Get your secretaries to vet your mail. Tell them beforehand which magazines and journals you want to read, which can go directly into the practice library, and which can go straight into the bin.

 · The same goes for junk mail and routine postings.

 · Have a stamp for the remaining mail, with tick boxes saying 'Patient to be seen', 'Show to nurse', 'File in library', etc.

 · Don't start to read any individual item of mail if you aren't likely to have time to deal with it fully there and then.

 · Where possible, deal completely with each item the first time you read it, ticking the boxes on the stamp to show the actions to be taken.

 · Only put a document aside for later action if there really is no alternative.

 · Your staff can now action and file each piece of mail, so that it's in its final resting place as soon as possible.

 · Don't waste time reading other doctors' routine mail, though each doctor should indicate important items in their own mail that should be shown to partners.

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