Did you know that the average executive wastes 150 hours per year looking for documents? One in 20 documents is lost and never recovered. As an organizational consultant, the most common question I hear from clients is: How Do I Get My Papers Organized?
Id like to help you create a working system for your home or office. A basic filing method can be set up with3 easy steps: sort it, file it, or follow up on it.
1) Sort It. Before you can file a single piece of paper, you need to sort through the stacks. Get rid of anything that you havent used for the past year, except tax and business documents. This applies to business and personal papers, magazines, newsletters, business cards, and your Rolodex.
2) File It. 80% of what you file is never looked at again! This puts things into perspective, doesnt it? There are two basic file types: archives and current. Archive files contain legal and tax papers, while current files include receipts, warranties, instruction manuals, reference material, client information, etc.
3) Follow Up on It. There are several ways to keep track of projects you need to complete, or clients you need to contact at a later date. File Box: Purchase index cards with labeled dividers. You can use an alphabetical system, or write your own category name on the tab. Note important dates and projects on each card, then file. Accordion File Folder: Buy a 3-sided folder labeled A-Z or 1-30 for your desktop or cabinet. Place each document to be processed at a later date behind the corresponding numbered or lettered divider. Keep only the current month in the dividers, placing the distant dates in the back of the folder. At the beginning of each month, pull the papers for the current months attention to be filed. Repeat as necessary each month. Computerized Planner: The software is designed for use alone or with a companion notebook organizer. Some have an alarm or flagging feature, which automatically notifies you of upcoming projects and their due dates.
Now that youve established your paper management system, lets think about maintaining it. Just remember three easy rules: keep everything in its place, file as you go, and be consistent.
Mail order catalogs contain wonderful organizing products such as bill paying notebooks, greeting card files, budget managers and planning calendars. Discount stores or office supply stores offer magazine holders, hanging folder holders, milk crates, vertical file holders, wicker baskets, and stacking trays.
- Use a tray or a folder to collect mail and process daily.
- File business cards or update your database on a daily basis.
- Post upcoming business and personal transactions in your planner or follow-up file, then file the documentation.
- Keep receipts in a folder or envelope, then cross-reference with your itemized bills.
- Purge files at least once a year.
- Designate a time and place to process mail and record incoming bills.
Remember to only be as organized as you need to be. Tackle those stacks of paper ten or fifteen minutes at a time each day until you can finally see your desktop. I think youll be surprised at how much you get done in a short time.
Set up your files where they will actually be used, not where you think they belong. Once youve set up your working system, commit to maintaining it. And youll find that you have created more time to spend on the things that are really important.