Look around your work area. Are you sitting in a nest of paperwork? Can you tell what day you began a project by how far into the piles you find it? Uh-oh!

Are your papers all put away, but you find you’re still searching for what you need, and have useless junk in your files? Your nest is neater, but it’s still there!

We all have the tendency to want to leave papers within reach so we can get back to them easily, or keep papers just in case (the receipt for an office chair that broke last year) but that very quickly turns into chaos! And chaos isn’t good for business. Chaos is the enemy of efficiency and productivity. You need to know where your useful papers are so you can access them as needed; whether it’s laying hands on your tax papers for an audit, being able to grab and hand a document to a team member, or finding project notes so you can answer a client’s questions. You need a system in place to deal with your paperwork.

Things to consider:

Where does your paper come from?
How much useful paper does your business generate?
Do you have enough storage space?
Is it useful, or really trash?
Does the system for handling your paper that you currently use (or ignore) now work for you?
What if your company grows? Will it still work?

Knowing where your paper comes from can help you handle it. Mail can be sorted and dealt with immediately. Receipts can be used to bring your accounts up to date and stored. Invoices, purchase orders, bills and equipment instructions/warranties should all have a place of their own. Client files and documents can be grouped by client.

You need to have an idea about how much paperwork your business handles. A printing company must store client documents that need to be reprinted regularly. One doctor’s office can generate a file drawer full of needed paper. On the other hand, a computer programmer may only need to store bills, receipts, and business and tax documents. Her “paperwork” is probably mostly online or stored in her hard drive. So the printer may need dozens of file cabinets, however, the programmer just two desk drawers.

Judging a paper’s usefulness when it first comes into your workspace can cut down on storage, mess, and chaos. If junk mail goes right from the mailbox into the trash can, it never has a chance to become clutter. When a new document replaces an old one, decide whether you need to keep the old one and how long. Tax documents should be kept for 7-10 years, as per your accountant. However, directions for the old scanner you just threw in the dumpster can be trashed or recycled right away.

Look around you. Is your system for papers working for you? Are you working your system? It’s worth the effort to develop or find a system that you will use. And what happens if your business grows? Can your paper system easily grow with it? Starting over in the midst of a rush of business can be a disaster. If your system is “ask Bill to handle it” what happens when Bill is on vacation? Or you have to fire him? Having a system that can be transferred from one person to another, from one stage of business to the next, where your papers are organized, stored, and safe will save you time, money and stress.

Kristi Pavlik
Chief Visionary Officer

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