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How to Tame the Piles of Paperwork

By: Marc Chauveau

 

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One minute the office is tidy, organized, and everything has its place. The next, the paper starts piling up, folders are bursting with documents that you probably don’t even need, and the thought of sorting through it is a daunting nightmare. 

 
It doesn’t have to be this way. Once you sort through your files, you can stay on top of it easily—and in an environmentally friendly way too. Here are some top tips on taming the piles of paperwork effectively. 
 
Decide What Needs Retaining
 
No matter your industry, there will be certain records that need to be retained for a given amount of time (sometimes permanently). It’s important, legally, to stick to these guidelines in case you ever need access to them again. 
 
Start by organizing your papers into piles:
 
  • Those that need retaining—organize these by the length of time they need retaining and how often you need to access them.
  • Those that can be thrown away—these will need disposing of by shredding, so be sure that they are not just “chucked in the bin.” 
  • Those that you are unsure of—never assume that a document can be disposed of if you are unsure. There are plenty of retention guides online that break down how long you need to keep hold of particular files, so assume they need keeping until you are sure. 
 
Once you know what to keep, set these articles aside. It’s time to dispose of the rest.
 
Get Recycling
 
By getting rid of unneeded records, the piles will be much easier to manage. Just as important as getting rid of the right documents, is getting rid of them in the right way. Any files containing confidential information will have to be shredded. 
 
Once shredded, recycle the remains to do your bit for the environment and avoid huge amounts of waste. 
 
File Away What You Keep
 
So what to do about what’s left? It is likely you already have a filing system in place—but is it working for you?
 
  • Does it keep your documents neat and organized?
  • Is it arranged according to length of retention?
  • Are the folders and boxes holding your papers sturdy? 
  • Is everything clearly labelled and stored based on how often you need to access particular articles?
 
It is not enough to just check one or two of these. To keep up an effective filing system will be a bit of work at first, but it will pay dividends when it comes to adding more documents, or needing to find older ones. Invest in strong boxes and folders that will keep your paperwork neat and protected, and implement a clear system for finding what you need.
 
Also make sure that you organize your papers based on how often you will need access to them. You want it to be as easy as possible to get to the documents that will be needed regularly.
 
Go Digital
 
There are many reasons why businesses are now turning to digital storage. By scanning in your texts and saving them to a hard drive or server, they are not only much easier to organize and access, but they are also easier to share among colleagues and clients when needed. 
 
On the other hand, you can tighten the access of digital documents, by adding passwords or permissions to particular files and folders, leaving you in control of what your employees are able to use.
 
Consider Offsite Storage
 
When space and time are tight, the better solution is often to outsource your storage. Storage management companies will be using the most-up-to-date archiving techniques and offer services that will deliver the documents you need straight to you at your convenience when given notice—so there’s no need to worry about keeping all of your paperwork onsite.
 
What’s more, by outsourcing, you can be rest assured that your files are safe within the confines of a building that is specifically designed to withstand security breaches or accidental damage.
 
These are just a few tips to help you tame the ever-growing piles of paperwork. Keeping on top of this is incredibly important as it will save you time and money.
 
What strategies have you used to stay in control of all your records and important business documents?
 
Image courtesy of Bigstock Photo
 
Published: August 16, 2013
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