The next time you stop to sort a large pile of to-do paperwork (or even years worth of papers!) begin very naturally, just like you normally do.

As you begin sorting, pay attention to what you’re saying out loud OR think in your head, for each piece of paper you touch. The magical action that needs to happen when you are sorting is to write down the phrases, thoughts, or words you use to describe the paper you are touching.

These “thoughts” will become your organizational label guidance for your TO-DO system. (This example is not for setting up an actual file system for permanent paperwork. It will also work for sorting papers and creating file systems that will stay organized. You’d listen to how you refer to each document you want to file, and use these “reference” labels to guide you on setting up a file system.)

Let’s get started.

Sorting thoughts will = label name.  

The label can be shortened, if thoughts are too long. Let’s look at some examples!

I need to file this.


Don’t need this.

I don’t want to look at this right now. It’s too much to think about.

Old to-do list. Need to see what all hasn’t been done on it.

Old grocery list.




I still want to travel here.

Oh, I’ll use this coupon. Must keep.


I need to research this. Then decide if I want to do it.

Financial stuff needed for taxes.

Client notes.

Other people’s stuff to help me with biz.


Drop this off.

Mail this to Susie.

I don’t even want to look at this. It’s too much for me to go through right now.

School stuff.

Career stuff.




Decorating ideas.

Around the house projects.

Mom’s stuff.



Wish lists. Gift ideas.


In the above examples, I’ve used random thoughts that may pop into your head while you are sorting. Whatever pops into your head when you touch each piece of paper is perfect.

For items that you wrote phrases like “need to put on calendar, need to call, need to pay, need to make appointment, you’ll set up a place to take action on these items.

To designate a space for your to-do items you can peek at the organizing containers I use. Get ideas because you may find the perfect solution for you: Start here.

A piece of paper may flow from a stack to a sorted pile (sort), across your desk (to-do), completed (done), and ultimately end up filed in a file cabinet for permanent storage, or in the trash or mailed, etc.  In the end your systems will all be connected.