Managing paper in any office is an overwhelming task, because there is a seemingly ever-increasing mountain of paper files.
Whether you’re a small or large company, you must practice good time management and office organization techniques in order to control costs and provide excellent service. Constantly increasing staff productivity is a must. What is needed is a simple, but effective document management solution.
David Lawrence of David Lawrence and Associates said in a previous article, “Consider how much it costs to maintain inefficient paperwork and filing systems. If, as a direct result of not having efficient systems, it costs you and/or your staff one hour each day (this is probably conservative), and you used a $50-per-hour cost factor over the course of an entire year-the cost of inefficiency could top $12,000 in lost time ($50 x five days per week x 48 weeks).
There is an old saying in business that goes, As much as is possible, handle a piece of paper only once. Those of us who scan through paper mail and set it aside in an inbox, promising to deal with it later, may find that same piece of mail a couple of months later buried in a pile. Deadlines can be missed, important mail can be commingled with unimportant (or junk) mail…”
In that Financial Advisor Magazine article entitled ‘Conquering The Paperwork Mountain,’ Mr. Lawrence recommended a document management software and filing system. This software is found to be an invaluable tool for helping people to better manage their office and get organized to stay on top of the virtual mountain of paperwork that they must deal with each day. You get all the power of the computer WITHOUT the risks and time commitment of paper scanning.
This software is a file indexing tool that allows you to go ahead and set up hanging files with numbered tabs, so they are ready to drop your paper filing into.
When going through mail, decide what needs action, what should be filed, and what should be tossed. Stacks of paper files all over the office lead to frustration and inefficiency, which is costly in both time and money, so you must prioritize and decide on procedures to handle the paper that comes through your office. To create an even more efficient office, be sure to document your paper handling system and retention guidelines. (the schedule of the life cycle of documents in your office) This will ensure that everyone is organized in the same way and training on these procedures will be a sync in the event of employee illness or staff turnover.
-Decide what is junk, and toss what should be tossed immediately.
-For items that need to be filed, the best practice would be to open the document management database and input Item Name and Keywords for each item, then immediately drop the file into the corresponding hanging folder.
Or you could have a tray or folder on your desk where you can immediately place items to be filed. Then set aside 15 minutes to clear your desk at the end of each day, enter the necessary information regarding the ‘to be filed’ into the document management database, and place the files into the corresponding hanging folder. (remember, the hanging folders are already set up, so you don’t have to worry about finding folders and making tabs)
-Prioritize action items. Decide if the action can be done immediately. If not, either delegate or check the deadline. Decide how long it will take you to complete the task, and work backward on your calendar. Schedule this action start date on your calendar. Input the Item Name and Keywords information regarding the action file into the document management database, and select the Action date to start. Place the item in the corresponding Action Item hanging folder.
Document management software is great for short-term action files, as well as long-term storage of files. Of course, purging of files should be a task that is done regularly according to your office retention guidelines and compliance with regulations to ensure your filing cabinets do not overflow with unnecessary or outdated files.
When you’re ready to purge files to archives or to recycle/shred, simply conduct a Transfer of the file(s) in the database, print a report if desired, and then remove the physical files from your filing cabinet or desk drawer. (If transferring to archives, don’t forget to set the action date when a file should be removed from archive to recycle/shred. That way, you’re sure to keep up with the life-cycle of your document management system.) Then box the files you’ve removed and send to your archive location or recycle/shred, whichever the case may be.
Making decisions regarding how paper should flow through your office and the life-cycle of document management and retention will go a long way in your staff’s time management, increased productivity and organization. As mentioned previously, when you document your paper handling system and retention guidelines, you will reduce cost and legal liabilities. Keeping unnecessary files will result in over-stuffed filing cabinets or storage space. In addition, different types of files need to be kept or destroyed based on legal reasons and time-lines, which could result in civil or criminal issues.