No matter how out of control your office may feel, it’s always a good time to purge your office files. But, what makes something a critical office File? How do you know what is essential to have on hand for future retrieval?
The truth is, paper piles and office files tend to overwhelm most people. In fact, very few people enjoy organizing office paper. However, there is help. Whether you’re looking for inspiration or just want to get started and do it right, these tips can help. Remember that although it can frustrate you, you can do hard things. It’s a simple process but does take time. So pull up your ruthless purging pants and let’s start eliminating unwanted paper and organizing the office files so they work for good.
The 8 office files you absolutely must have
When you pack your office to move, remember to make time to purge your paper files. The list below provides important information. In fact, the only paper records you must keep fall into these categories:
This segment of your files is essential. Vital (or what some call permanent files) includes things you must legally keep to establish yourself or your business in case of emergency or loss.
Rotating (Remove/Replace) Files
Rotating files are those critical office files you must keep up to date. They typically change cyclically by season, month, or year.
Active Action Files
These files should be very basic and repeatable tasks you do daily. Some typical labels include the ‘Actions’ you do often. The real key is to label all your files using the verb form of the very next action. Common action files may include Pay, Call, Follow Up, Write, Read, etc. Here’s more on how to build an action file.
It’s important to work within a reasonable time horizon. That’s why I recommend you focus your time on organizing with a weekly planner like this one. This organizing structure helps you pool papers into chronological files. Create a file labeled to handle tasks that occur monthly, weekly, and daily. Not all people will need these types of files. However, if your work requires you to do certain things on different days, or during different times of the year, these file types can really help you stay on track.
Everyone pays taxes. So set up a tax file to gather bills, invoices, receipts, and expenses throughout the year. This way, come tax time, you’ll have an easy 1-stop file that has all the records you need. With a complete and comprehensive file, it’s easier to cull and collate exactly the papers you need to prepare your taxes on time.
These should be the papers you MUST have and hold onto for the long term. These files may contain reference data, past personal records, important details you may need someday, or purchase records you should keep. For instance, I keep all the records I create for my past clients. Since I’m a certified and credentialed coach, I’m required to keep client data and hours on hand in case of an audit.
This category should contain any information you can’t replace easily. Additionally, since so much is web searchable, this category can be ruthlessly culled to only contain those items not found elsewhere. Remember, sometimes it’s nice to have something printed to carry, read or refer to. So, you may want to keep paper copies of items such as phone lists, menus, collaborators, research, and presentations that you can put your hands on for future reference.
Equipment, Supplies, Tools
You likely have many pieces of equipment to make your office productive. It’s a great idea to create a folder to ‘catch’ any system docs, warranties, and instructions as they come in with a new item. When you already have a home for this information, it’s as easy as opening your new tech tool, setting it up, and then filing the paper in a drawer.
Use this file to capture any documents that come with electronics, subscriptions, supplies, and tools you’ve purchased. It will make it so easy to find in case something goes wrong.
Keep files organized with a master index
One hybrid approach to keep your files organized is to create a master index that locates where you can find your paper files. Originally developed in the military, indexes help you find things at a glance. A good index requires you to codify your storage places and number your files according to an organized naming structure. This makes your index more valuable and usable when you need to find items.
Eliminate paper by scanning critical office files to digital format
If you’re trying to eliminate paper clutter and save on space, you may want to scan your critical office paper files into a digital format. This is always a good idea, but to be successful, you’ll need a plan. First, you’ll need to identify what papers are most important. This is when having vital and permanent files already organized can help because that’s a great place to start. Additionally, there are many digital software tools and apps that can help you get organized and elimintae paper.
These are the items you absolutely should scan just in case of an emergency. Here’s more on how to set up your ICE file.
- Birth certificates
- Marriage and divorce certificates
- Social Security cards
- Drivers’ licenses
- Insurance policies (auto, home, life, etc.)
- Health insurance cards
- Immunization records
- Professional licenses
Additionally, if it’s time to get digital and scan organize your electronic files there’s help here.
A note on shredding
Seriously, identity theft is real. So, be sure to take care when eliminating paper. Anything, and I mean anything, that contains personal data, your address, phone, or any information that identifies you should be shredded. Shred all the stuff you no longer need. Here’s a great list of the top 10 paper items you can trash today.
If unsure if it’s critical, check what’s legal
The IRS is the go-to place to check your facts on how long paper items should be kept in your care. And, as Find updated record-keeping advice on irs.gov. Additionally, you can our calendar with a reminder to do so. Often, time and distance will make parting with items easier. But remember, everything you keep, needs to be boxed up, lugged, unpacked, and reappointed in your new space. So, now’s the time for ruthless elimination and make traction with your purging.
As always, when deciding how to pack your office papers, it’s important to check with your tax advisor or the IRS for your own security and protection. (Or, check out this e-Book “Time To Toss It“!)
Hopefully, these tips will help you get your office ready for a move. And if you have not yet taken the TSSI it can certainly help you understand your Organizing Personality Style – Go here to learn more. his will help inspire you if you have any rainy days you’d like to use to purge your own spaces! If you have any thoughts, tips, and techniques to share – add them below!