Our ability to complete forms can have an enormous impact on our ability to access education, employment and financial assistance.  Below are some tips to help you in completing any paperwork that comes your way.

1. Time
Give yourself a good chunk of time to complete any paperwork.  With daunting forms it's tempting to leave it till the last minute but this will just cause further stress and anxiety.  If the form is large with a number of pages, break the task of completing it into manageable chunks with regular breaks.  Aim for chunks of about 20 - 30 minutes with a 5 - 10 minute break.  After an hour give yourself a longer break.  This will help you to manage your stress levels and stay focused on the task at hand.

2. Space
Before starting to fill in your form ensure that you have adequate space, a good pen in black or blue and a flat surface to write on.  Make sure your work surface is clean and you have enough space to spread out any reference documents you may need to refer to.

3. Remove distractions
Turn off the television or anything that could distract you and it make it harder to concentrate.  Let family members or house mates know that you are working on an important document so that distractions from others are limited. 

4. Plan
Read through the document so that you can get a feel for the kind of questions you will be answering and what information you may need to provide.  If you are completing an official form, such as a benefits claim or job application, gather together any documents that you may need to refer to.  Having these items close to hand will help to reduce stress and speed up the task.  Also hunting around for documents while you are completing the form will be distracting and you will increase the risk of getting side tracked by other tasks.

5. Work methodically through the form page by page
This point is especially important when completing official documents such as benefit claim forms.  The temptation is often to answer the bits you know first and come back to the others later.  This is usually a good strategy for completing job applications but benefit forms tend to be laid out slightly differently.  Often the answer you provide to one question affects the need to complete the remainder of the section or may lead to you being able to skip parts of the form altogether.  Instructions about which question to answer next are usually printed in bold beside the space for your answer.  If you find a question that doesn't apply to your circumstances then write 'N/A' (not applicable) in the space provided.  This lets the person reading and processing the form know that you haven't just forgotten or misunderstood a question.

6.  Take a copy
If at all possible take a photocopy of any form you've completed before posting.  This will provide you with something to refer back to and will make completing any further forms infinitely easier.  You can often find photocopiers in public libraries or stationery stores.  If you can't afford to take a copy then photographing each page or scanning them into a computer will also provide you with a copy.

7.  Get help
If you have a document that you need to complete by a certain date and you know you are going to struggle to get this done, ask for help.  If the form is a benefits form you could ask at your local CAB and find out if they are able to assist you.  Alternatively you could ask a reliable family member, friend or professional in your care for help.  They may not be able to complete the form for you but may be able to offer some handy pointers or how best to tackle any difficult questions.