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Managing your in-tray

* Never handle anything more than once . When you pick up a piece of paper, do something with it other than put it in a "to do" pile.

* If you have a secretary, give him or her responsibility for sorting your mail.

* Devise a sorting system - along the lines: A = urgent; B = needs your attention today; C: = important but not urgent.

* Try to use the original paperwork to send replies.

* Use a dictation machine rather than script drafts.

* Learn to speed read, underlining key points.

* Reply by phone rather than by mail. It takes less time.

* Get your name off mailing lists which send out unsolicited mailshots. And get your name deleted from circulation reports that you never read.

* Make sure reports of more than three pages carry acover page outlining the subject, the date it was prepared, purpose and any action expected.

* Delegate responsibility for reading relevant journals, periodicals or key articles. Invite short, punchy, written observations or actions to be taken.

To stop paperwork accumulating:

* Design a sorting system which works for you. It should be flexible enough to allow for minor changes as the need arises. You could, for example: use colour-coded task folders; use "next step" slips. This will help you get back up to speed more quickly when you return to the task.

Kingsley Bungard.

Kingsley Bungard is a management consultant with the Coventry-based firm TMCG, which has been involved with training primary and secondary heads in the West Midlands.

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