Spring into Spring : clean-up and organise your office filing system.

daffodilsThe recent weather has been very spring like, daffodils are brightening gardens, lambs are frolicking in the rural areas and everyone seems to have got some new energy after the winter.

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.

before and after

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.

Filing is everybody’s 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:

  1. 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
  2. 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.

Make your business more efficient

We have helped many small businesses, so we know we can provide you with expert advice on filing systems and processes for keeping business records.

Now you too can benefit from our experience because we can offer you the opportunity to download our new e-book “Keeping Good Records for Small Businesses” that gives you clear step-by-step instructions on how to create a filing system to organize your business information in a package that includes:

  • Instructions on how to set up a filing system (an excerpt  from the e-book is attached)
  • A template to use to create a filing policy and a set of filing procedures tailored for your business
  • One hour consulting advice to get you started (by phone, Skype or in person).

You get all that in our package – usually for $297, but even better, you have the advantage of a special price of $147 for a limited time.

If your business has a filing mess you can follow the instructions yourself to sort it out. You can work at your own pace, to design and develop a system that is aligned to your particular business needs knowing that at the end you will have a system that works perfectly for your business.

For more information and how to buy your own reference guide to small business filing systems, go to www.makemybusinessefficient.com

One minute at a time

Do you spend time each day standing waiting while your tea or coffee brews?

Is your desk covered with papers you don’t need today?

Do you spend time each day sitting waiting for your computer to respond or for a document to print?

Are your emails building up in your in box?

If you answered Yes to any or all of these questions, try this tactic to use your time productively with a one minute action plan to clean up your office or desk.

You can use this tactic to move towards having a tidy desk or office even when you’re really really busy.

  1. Next time you make a cup of coffee or tea, take it back to your desk and before you start work again, spend just 1 minute working on one part of your office that needs cleaning up.  It might be a pile of papers that has been building up, or you might delete some old emails.
  2. If you are brewing coffee or have to wait till the water boils, do the same – spend just 1 minute working on one part of your office that needs cleaning up.
  3. Remember to take just one minute to do one thing at a time.  If you don’t get finished in one minute, leave it till the next coffee break.
  4. At that next coffee break, spend one minute finishing off the task you started in your previous “One minute at a time.”
  5. Or start on a new area of your desk or office. If you’re sorting papers, make one pile of those that you need still (active files), and another pile of those papers that you no longer need or don’t need in the next day or two (inactive or dead – you can choose the label!).
    This might take several “one minutes” at different coffee breaks.  If you’re dealing with emails, select a date range and do a one minute job on that selection
  6. When you have sorted papers into an inactive pile, take them away from your desk. Anywhere will do – just get them off your desk!!  Dealing with them properly will be another one minute job another time.

You are to spend only one minute at a time on each of these actions. Each one minute adds up to a lot of minutes over the course of a day or a week. And you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes to your day and your increased level of efficiency in your work.   Try it!!

7 habits of highly organised office workers

I often walk past people’s desks that are cluttered with paper, food, empty coffee cups etc and wonder how they manage to work in such a mess.

I’ve also seen what the desks of high achievers look like when they’re busy.  I’ve noted some of their habits and share them with you here.

  1. Start the day by planning what you expect or hope to achieve by the end of the day. This can be a written list or just a mental note.
  2. Check your emails before you start your first activity or task.  Deal with them as appropriate (see Good Habits around Email).  Check emails again at lunch time and again late afternoon if you need to.
  3. Turn off email alerts do you don’t get distracted mid-task.
  4. Gather the information you need for the first activity and get going.
  5. As you complete a task, sort out the related papers and bin or file them. Save and close down related electronic files, emails and applications.
  6. Mentally prepare yourself for the next piece of work.  Take a break – grab a coffee, fill your water bottle.  Go for a walk and get some fresh air – even 5 minutes round the block works wonders to clear your head.
  7. Stop whatever you’re doing 5-10 minutes before you need to leave. Spend that time tidying your desk, closing down desktop applications, binning and filing papers. Taking this time will set you up really well for the next day.

By now you’ll be dissing this blog as fairy tale land. You’re thinking how  can you possibly focus on tasks when there are so many interruptions in the course of your day – how do you deal with phone calls, people stopping by to chat, not to mention meetings etc.

How can you stop work a few minutes before you leave when it will only take you another few minutes to finish off what you’re doing. (That’s a hard one that I really really relate to. I hate leaving a job before it’s finished.  But I have learnt to manage that over time).

Maybe you can leave a bit later, catch a later train or bus. Bit more tricky if you car pool or have to pick up a child from day care or similar.

So I suggest you use these ideas to work out how you can create a habit that works for you.

PS – My desk isn’t necessarily tidy at all times during the course of a day.  I do clear the papers and close documents, web pages etc when I complete a job.  And I do tidy my desk at the end of the day.  It makes such a difference in the morning to make a fresh start, even if I’m finishing off something from the day before.