A few weeks ago I was talking with a client who recently cleaned his entire office. He invested the time it took to completely organize all of his files. As a result, when he was asked a question about something, he knew exactly where to go in his files to find the answer. What spoke volumes to me was how visibly relieved he was knowing that his documents were completely organized. So while it may be a time consuming task to get organized, the end result will be, without a doubt, completely worth it.
A New Year always feels like a fresh start, a blank slate. So let’s take advantage of this fresh start and make 2015 the year that you get not only your bookkeeping, but your entire office completely organized.
We put together a plan that you can use as a guide to help you get your office organized this New Year:
- Set aside a designated amount of time each day solely dedicated to organizing. Write it in your planner and treat it like an important meeting. Don’t reschedule or put it off, take the time you planned for and use it wisely. Keep in mind when scheduling this time to organize, that you choose a time that realistically works for you and your schedule/other work load. In addition, take into consideration how much organizing needs to take place. If you have years and years of paperwork to go through, 30 minutes one day a week won’t be enough time to successfully get it all done in a timely manner.
- Be prepared. Make sure you have the supplies you need in order to get organized. Here is a list of supplies you may need:
- File folders
- File folder hangers
- Filing cabinet/boxes
- Label maker
- Paper clips (in various sizes)
- Binder dividers (monthly, quarterly, etc.)
- Look at one pile at a time. Take a stack of papers (the height of the stack depends on how much time you have given yourself) and focus on only that stack. Limit distractions, and don’t jump from pile to pile. Stick with one pile at a time.
- While sorting it is important to pay attention to:
- The date. How old is it? You should create two piles- one for current documents, and one for documents that need to be saved from past years. By organizing items by date, it helps to know where/how to store them. You can refer to this article to help you know how far back you should save certain documents.
- What the document is. This seems like a given, but make sure you know what it is so you can better determine where it goes.
- How important is it, is it worth saving? Here is a list stating what you need to keep, and what you can discard. If you discard documents, make sure you shred anything that has personal information on it like your name, address, phone number, social security number, or bank account information (ATM receipts, credit card receipts, bills, used airline tickets, expired credit cards, visas, passports, and IDs).
- Create files for each document. When filing documents, it’s important to organize them by date and category. For example, bank statements for your 2014 checking account would be in a separate folder than your bank statements for your 2013 checking account. And if you have multiple checking accounts, keep the bank statements for each account in a separate folder. Also, if there are a lot of papers for a specific category, like payroll, you could use a binder instead of a paper file folder. It is important to store things properly in order for them to keep well for years to come.
- Label each file folder. Label each folder clearly with either a label maker or pen. We don’t recommend the use of a pencil as it can rub off over time. Also, be sure to label each file clearly and neatly. You will want to be able to easily identify what is in each file, especially for future years.
- Put files in file storage container (cabinet or box). Depending on the importance of the documents, you may want to consider putting them in a fire safe container that locks. If you have certain papers that you need to keep but don’t need to refer back to on a regular basis then you may want to store them somewhere other than your office. Taking unnecessary clutter out of your office will help keep things organized.
- Once you are done tackling each and every pile, re-evaluate your schedule. Keep a designated time each week marked in your calendar to maintain the organization of your files. It is important to stay on top of it each week so that you don’t have this same problem in future years.
- Take a deep breath- you did it! You are organized! Job well done!
Let’s make this New Year one that will make people- yourself included ask, “who are you?” 🙂