Recently I’ve noticed a number of accountants offer their services to do a one-off service to sort out the shoe boxes of paper records their clients bring to them. It seems that a lot of small business owners still put all their receipts and invoices into a box or maybe a folder or envelope and don’t bother to look at them again.
We know that email messages build up without us even noticing – until the inbox gets full or someone asks why we haven’t replied to an email that sought a response. We look at the number of messages and gasp, then leave it all because it’s too hard to even think about dealing with all those messages.
I got a newsletter recently suggesting that we deal with email in the days before Christmas when people had some down time at work.
Although many people tend to work in the electronic environment, there are times when desks get covered in paper. If your desk frequently gets messy, my 15 minute action plan may be of help.
It will help you to clear your desk of unnecessary papers with the minimum of fuss and in a short space of time.
The benefit to you is that you will be able to find information quickly because you don’t have to rifle through the piles of paper every time you want one piece of paper.
You can download my 15 minute action plan to tidy your desk and clear your desk fast now.
It’s a great time to put some of that energy to work in your office, especially if it is looking a bit cluttered with papers that have piled up or if you have a desktop screen filled with icons for documents that haven’t been filed properly in your record-keeping structure.
It’s also timely from a business point of view, especially if you’re almost half way through your financial year like I am. If you have a clean-up now you can:
- sort out your invoices and receipts well before the time you need to get your financial information to your accountant for your annual accounts
- find your business plan and review your progress so you can congratulate yourself on your achievements or put in place some actions to improve your position.
Did you know that once you’ve got your business information organised and at your fingertips you will be able to save up to 15 minutes a day every day. Think about how many non-productive hours that adds up to over one year.
If you think you don’t have time to do a clean-up then take a look at my 15 Minute Action Plan to tidy your desk. It really works. Jill and Sandie among others can vouch for that.
If you can’t find documents easily in your computer, then work through the 15 Minute Action Plan to organise your electronic documents.
When you have your filing system in order you will save time and reduce stress as well as increasing your productivity and profits.
You can read about more hints and tips to improve your business in my free eBook; and even more if you download the eWorkbook that gives you a full set of instructions on how to set up a filing system for your business.
For more than 20 years Judy Owen has been working with businesses of all sizes and complexities to improve and streamline the access to their business information. She and her team can show you how to reduce risk, improve productivity and increase profits with good business systems and processes in your business.
Recently I’ve been working with a small group of people who manage the records for a medium sized business. As soon as I arrived they made a point of telling me that in their newish building, they were located in an area with no view while their IT colleagues were on the other side of the building with views to open spaces and water. This is somewhat typical of attitudes towards Records and IT teams and happens in a lot of organisations.
Locating the records team in this way relegates the idea of records and filing to the days of fling clerks in basements when no-one but he filing clerks knew what information was in what file.
Today it is widely recognized that records are everyone’s business and everyone needs to take responsibility for filing the information they create.
However it is still seen as tedious and nobody really wants to ‘do filing’. They’d much rather someone else did it for them.
Not so easy in the electronic age when individuals can create many documents or spreadsheets or presentations on a daily basis. Everyone needs to know where and how to file their e-docs.
This is where a structure for filing documents is so important. When you go to save a document or spreadsheet or a photo even, you need to find a place for it so you can find it again. It’s also useful to file your document with other items on the same or similar topic.
A ‘Google’ type search on your documents will work if two conditions are present:
- you have allocated keywords from a standard list to each document so when you search using a particular keyword, you will find all the documents on that topic
- there are not too many items to be searched.
This approach is fine in a newish business when there are not many documents but falls over as more and more items are added to My Documents or a shared drive when it takes longer to search through them all or the search engine stops working because of the load.
Even in larger businesses where there might a person or group of people with responsibility for records and filing, their role is more to establish a process and system for you and everyone else to use to file items. They don’t ‘do filing’ except for the items they create themselves.
The other benefit of doing your own filing – electronic or paper – is that you will remember what categories you have used and you will know where to look for items when, at some later date, you go looking for a document that you know is there somewhere, or that you need in a hurry, or if you want to re-use some information you’ve already created.
Re-using existing document is a marvelous productivity booster – but that’s a story for another day.
Has paper gone feral in your office? You know what I mean, piles of papers on your desk, more on the floor, paper everywhere in fact.
It used to be organised and filed once, but then you got busy.
Now you’ve forgotten how you used to organise your paper files and you’ve started storing some of it electronically. But you don’t want to throw the paper away in case you can’t find the electronic version.
And so it goes on.
Help is at hand and you don’t need to be in a city to get that help.
First up let’s look at some hints and tips so you can start to tame those feral piles of papers.
- Clear a desk or table or even some space on the floor
- Get a large rubbish bag and put it beside your cleared space
- Decide on a 15 minute block of time to work on the feral paper
- Pick up one pile, no more than 20 cm high, and put it in the cleared space
- Pick up each piece of paper and decide if you still need to keep it. If you don’t need it, put it in the rubbish bag. If you do need it, put it in one corner of your cleared space.
- Repeat with the rest of this pile, sorting the papers into smaller piles with similar items, eg all bank statements in one pile, credit card statements in another, research articles in another etc, etc
Try not to get distracted by anything that looks particularly interesting. Your 15 minutes will disappear in no time. Put these interesting items in a separate pile and make a date with yourself to read them another time.
- Find a permanent home for those items you are going to keep so you don’t simply create new piles of paper
- Get a system in place to help you decide how long you need to keep certain items
- Decide if you need to keep a paper copy or if an electronic version will be sufficient
- Make a time to go through another pile tomorrow or in a few days. Put the time in your diary.
If you need more help contact me. The Terrace Consulting file tamers can visit you in person, can Skype with you to talk and have a look at your paper and advise you, or we can simply talk to you on the phone and give you some ideas to tame your paper filing.
I’ve been on holiday in the South island of New Zealand for the past 2 weeks. That’s why this blog has been silent for a while.
I took two cousins from England for a tour of the West Coast, southern lakes and Fiordland. We spent a lot of time in rain forest and it rekindled my memories of other holidays in the area and of school geography about the structure of the native forests.
We saw the tall rimu, totara, kahikatea, matai and miro in the forest canopy, the ferns and mosses on the ground and the lower growing bushy trees in the middle. It was all very lush and green.
Last weekend I was in the garden cleaning up around the rengarenga lilies that had been home to snails for some time. (If you don’t know these plants, they form low bushes of long fleshy leaves and a myriad of white flowers in spring and summer).
As I pulled off shredded leaves that the snails had feasted on, and scraped up the dead leaves that I’d left there to compost (but in fact had become snail birthing units and nurseries), I pondered on the wisdom of my strategy that effectively left the garden to its own devices.
Then my thoughts turned to other chores that are often left to their own devices and the mess that ensues. Take filing for example.