Paperwork out of control: Get Organised!

Creating an effective filing system is one of the easiest ways a business can get organised and also increase productivity and get you back in control.

When it comes to filing and paperwork, many people fall into one of the following three traps:

Afraid to make a decision - If you don't know what to call a piece of paper, then you will end up calling it nothing. Generally if it doesn't have a name, it doesn't get a home. This type of paper ends up in in-trays, piles and draws.

Afraid to throw anything out - I can't throw this paper out. I might need it one day!

Afraid they won't be able to find something again - A disorganised filing system can sometimes be like a black hole.

The whole point of having a filing system is to give you easy access to information when and how you want it. If you spend your day sorting through paper searching for documents, it might be time to revamp your desktop and filing systems. The following are some basic tips that can help you regain control over your paperwork once and for all.

1. 80% of paperwork that is kept is never used. Firstly, decide whether paperwork needs to be kept with some simple questions:

  • Does this paper require any action?
  • Is this paper recent enough to be useful?
  • Would it be difficult to get this piece of paper again?
  • Are there any tax or legal obligations?
  • Is there a specific use for this peice of paper?
  • What would be the worst senario if I threw out this paper?

2. Filing systems don't have to be complicated. They can be as simple as colour coding, numbering or alphabetically categorising your files. Ususally this is done by client, account or project but whatever you choose, will be what suits your work and you personally.

3. Deal with paper as you receive it. Use a step file organiser for your desktop, labelling each file for what you intend to use it for such as:

  • To Hold/Review
  •  To Do
  •  To File
  •  To Answer
  •  To Pay

4. Create a paper management area. Use a table or bench to sort through all paperwork before filing. It is best if this is done elsewhere and not at your desk as this disturbs the order of things on your desktop. Do NOT use the paper management area as a dumping ground for files, paperwork or equipment. When not is use - this should be kept bare.

5. Schedule a certain amount of time every day to deal with paperwork. For filing, choose a set day and time every week. Be realistic with your timeframe and try to limit interruptions.

It is easy for paperwork to get out of hand when you are busy running a business. But when record keeping gets neglected, your business can suffer. You may miss payments or deadlines, you aren't organised enough to get the Business activity statement lodged on time and all because your paperwork isn't organised!

The good news is that once you regain control over your paperwork - you will find that you actually have more time!