“Success is simple. Do what’s right, the right way, at the right time”
Arnold H Glasow
It’s all too easy to say, I’ll do that later, I’m just too busy at the moment to do the filing or clean out the clutter. You get on with your busy life while the paper piles up. Important documents get mixed with the junk, the empty envelopes, catalogues, brochures and papers. Occasionally you grab a few obvious things off random piles and throw them away telling yourself it’s a start and you’ll get around to the rest in a bit. But you know you’d have to be forced before you sit down and do something as mundane as dealing with the paper cluttering your home and office spaces. And you can see why. Clutter isn’t usually a problem – until you need to find something and quickly.
If I asked you to give me a copy of your current business insurance policies could you do so easily, or would you have to go through every filing tray, cabinet and box?
Why would you need to give me a copy of your insurance policy anyway?
Actually that was just an example. We have many important documents, and they become more important when we need them urgently. So, if you can’t put your hands on them immediately, how much time do you think it would take you to find what you are looking for?
A few seconds per piece on the first pass through the papers can be enough to ditch the true rubbish. But after that didn’t turn up those elusive insurance documents how much more time are you going to have to spend trying to find them?
So what do you do?
Well one of the best ways to tackle your paper clutter is to not have a problem in the first place.
But you do, and you weren’t kidding when you said you were busy. So the easy way to solve your clutter problem is to take one area at a time. One box, one pile, one filing tray, one piece of paper if that’s all you have time for right this minute, and ask yourself:
- Do you need it?
- Why do you need it?
- And if so – then where do you file it? Electronically and / or Hard Copy?
- If you don’t need it, can it be destroyed/shredded or just thrown away?
But how do you stop the paper clutter from starting all over again?
To be honest there are as many ways of dealing with paper based problems as there are pieces of paper in your filing cabinet, but the following are some suggestions that may work for you.
Deal with it now.
If you empty your own mailbox don’t take the contents inside until you’ve done an initial cull first.
Get rid of anything that is not important. If you’ve never read the local paper then put it straight into the recycling bin, ditto flyers that don’t apply to you or your business. Open the envelopes and scan the contents. Still important? Then that piece can go inside, but ditch the envelope.
Fantastic that’s the first cull done and all that’s left is the important stuff.
The second thing to do is to pass on to whoever schedules bills and reconciles purchase orders and bank statements. If that’s you, then open your banking app and schedule the bills and put them to one side to file.
Then schedule a meeting time in your calendar for the rest, and put them to one side.
Time spent so far 5-10 minutes maximum.
Legal requirements for business documents are quite strict and the 7 year financial rule doesn’t always apply (5 years for individuals, 7 years for businesses, government rules vary from these) but for the sake of argument let’s assume every piece of business related paper has to be kept for 7 years.
Make up a set of files for this current year.
As you tackle your clutter problem you will need to make up annual files for each previous year you come across and additional files for capital purchases.
Financial records prior to the current year minus 7 can be destroyed.
What files do you need to create? Again there are many different ways of creating a filing system that works, what you need is one that will work for you going forward. If you contact us we would be delighted to share a system that we know works as we use it ourselves.
Don’t get caught out thinking you don’t have time, tackle one thing at a time.