My client sent me a box of hundreds of 8.5 x 11 personalized sheets of paper in random order, along with imprinted labels. He needed these sheets sorted, labeled and mailed.
90% or more of my work for clients is done using technology. But on rare occasions, there have been times to still do an “old fashioned” project like stuff a mailing. Despite claims for paperless offices that were predicted years ago, we still handle a lot of snail mail and paper files.
So, when you have a project like this and need to alphabetize it, what are the quickest ways to do it? Here is a method I’ve been using:
First: I divide sheets into two piles based on first letters of last name
A to K and L to Z.
The benefit of this is that it does not require a lot of thought to sort. I don’t want to get hung up in specific detailed alphabetizing yet.
Second: I divide the two piles into four, again using first letters of last names:
A-E / F-K / L-Q / R-Z
Notice that these divisions complement the first one of A-K and L-Z.
Third: Now taking one pile at a time, I further divide it by individual letter
A B C D Etc.
In this project, there were many recipients who were getting more than one sheet, but there was no need to match them exactly quite yet.
Fourth: Now working with each smaller pile, I sort and match everyone appropriately. If necessary, I move to further divisions using second letters of last name using vowels or common consonants, depending on what I feel will sort it fastest.
Now I can find the mailing label that matches the name.
The key to this divide and conquer method is to keep the number of piles to a minimum initially. The more spread out your project becomes, the more unwieldy it can get. Keeping divisions simple in the beginning, and then progressively more detailed, saves space and does not feel as overwhelming.
*The above scenario is partially fictional, to provide a helpful demonstration. However, it is based on a real-life project HOPE helped a client with. Contact us for your administrative support needs. Our pre-pay 10 or 20 hour retainers allow for short term projects or long term relationships or check out our monthly “On Call” membership!
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