- Avoid using manila envelopes for storing items in a filing cabinet, except in
the case of maintaining past tax records. A manila envelope for any other
reason means "out of sight, out of mind." Which equals wasted space.
- When storing tax information, place all backup records in a large manila
envelope. This includes: credit card billings, receipts, check registers, bills and
any other documentation used in calculating your deductions. Date the
outside of the envelope with the tax year and file towards the back of one of
the filing drawers. (Better yet, use an archive box for storing tax files). This
means the oldest year will always be in front.
- Lets get one thing clear right away: you need to save all tax filings forever!
Beyond that here is are a few of the basics:
- Save all tax backup documentation (receipts etc..) for 3 years. Save
investment material for 7 years. Save real estate transactions for 3 years
except in the case of a "1031." 1031 exchanges must be kept for the life of the
exchange plus 3 years.
- Note; certain types of business professions are required by law to maintain
records indefinitely. Check with your local tax attorney for accurateness in
this regard for your locale and profession.
- Depending on the amount of papers you maintain on a regular basis,
everyone needs a file cabinet of one size or another. Several vendors make
"sturdy hard plastic" portable file cabinets for those who operate out of a
"mobile office" or have only a few records to maintain. (See our resource
section for product recommendations.) Others require 2 or 4 drawer file
cabinets and yet others require multiple file cabinets. Whatever you do
think of file space as "limited" space. You may not have to purchase another
file cabinet..you might only need to purge what you already have filed!
- When designing a file system stay away from elaborate and complex
schemes. Your not suppose to need a road map to find what you When you
- Creating a color coded file system enhances this dreaded task for many
people and I highly recommend using it with the majority of my clients.
- When creating a color coded system designate colors for various categories.
Example: green for financial; yellow for personal; purple for home; red for
tax; blue for professional etc...
- The files that I recommend are made by Esselte. Pendaflex is the cadillac of
all files on the market, in my humble opinion. It is the only file guaranteed
for life for starters. Yes, they may cost a bit more, yet their durability is
incomparable. Whatever you do, if you are purchasing Pendaflex hanging
files, make sure you match them up with Pendaflex interior files for a sharp,
clean, sleek and one of a kind file system!
- Realize that color schemes may give some people an excuse not to file when
they run out of the respective colors needed. Make sure you monitor your
stock to avoid running out at an inopportune time. All the time spent without
the appropriate color means your "filing is piling" -- creating dis-organization!
- Make sure you coordinate your color coded files with the appropriate color
tabs to make locating that paper even more efficient!
- When creating any type of file system -- remember to keep it simple. You
wouldn't want to build a system in such a confusing manner that requires a
road map to find a file.
- Remember 80% of what we file is never even looked at again!
- When naming hanging files and interior files, always stick with the first
identifying word that comes to mind for that group of papers. Attempts at
making it overly sophisticated ensure you won't remember what you called it
and you do need to find what you have decided to save. Keep it simple!
- Clarification: think of each hanging file as the family name. Each interior file
can be thought of as the kids in that family.
- Name the interior file with an identifying word and write the name on the
tab. Now, on the front cover of the interior file, write the "family" name of
the hanging file where you are going to place it. Case in point: I have created
a hanging file for all information and work I am involved with regarding the
National Speakers Association. The hanging file is labeled NSA. Within that
hanging file are several interior files. Some of the topics are: National;
Chapter; Events; Board meetings etc... Each interior file not only has its"
folder labeled appropriately -- it contains the word NSA on the front cover:
*NSA. This way anyone using my file system that retrieves an interior file
knows exactly where it gets returned to without having to understand the
logic of my file system.
- Place all tabs for hanging file folders on the front of the file. The fingers
normally approach a file in such a way that if the tab is in front, the interior
folder for that file is right there. If the tab is on the back of the file folder, the
contents being filed have a greater tendency to slip between one file folder
and the next into an open space, aka: the black hole!
- Always, always use an interior folder for the contents of a file. Make sure it
is labeled to correspond with the hanging file folder itself. When the contents
of a file need to be retrieved, remove the interior folder. NEVER remove the
hanging file itself. After all, this is the landmark designating where the file
actually lives. This simple subtle task will avoid lost files.
- Interior file folders have several scored lines on the bottom, these are used
when an overabundance of paper in the interior file would hinder the
visibility of the label on the folder. Fold the scored area as necessary to
expand the size of the folder.
- Avoid filing pocket folders, (the type you receive in workshops etc...), they
impede the visibility of the interior filer folder name as well as the tab on the
hanging file folder. Instead, remove the contents you need from the pocket
folder and staple the paper together before placing it in the interior folder.
- Never use paper clips when filing. They have a tendency to get caught on
another paper that is a different subject matter within the interior files.
Staple multiple sheets of similar topics together that are sharing the same
- Make sure you use "nouns" when filing not adjectives. What is "old stuff"
anyway? Note: avoid using a title of "miscellaneous." You need to make a
decision about that paper, even if it means tossing it.
- As an alternative, if you are more of the creative sort" you may have a
natural abhorrence to filing cabinets. Utilize a cubbyhole organizing system
on the wall or even on your desktop. These organizers can be found in
almost every office supply store. They are either made of particle board or
the same metal material used for filing cabinets. These cubby systems allow
you to visually see anything you want in entirety. (See our resource section
for product recommendations.)
- Find out what the policy is in your office for the retention of records.
Someone needs to make this decision or the tendency is to store everything
indefinitely. This can add up to incredible expenses and lost space in a
relatively short time.Note: people have a tendency to invest in more file
systems and/or archive boxes for offsight storage, rather than weed through
papers and make decisions. You will eventually need to increase the square
footage of rented space thus incurring even more costs --all because no one
took the time to analyze the data and make a decision!
- Designate an expiration date for as much of your filed material as possible.
Maintain consistency.For example, use a red pen in the upper left-hand
corner and code a specific expiration date on the material. Some people are
hesitant in assigning this date for fear of error in judgement. They have a
tendency to "save everything because they got burnt once." You must decide
to make a decision. If you are in doubt and need some confidence in this type
of decision making -- just add 4 months to the date to be safe. Note: Next
time you are in that file and run into a file with an expiration date that has
passed -- toss it! Avoid taking the time to reread, or reanalyze your decision.
Trust yourself! Saving everything can get extremely costly rather quickly!
- If there are numerous users of your filing system, designate a "file
guardian." This person will be in charge of refiling all information, as well as
logging who has what for how long. This will greatly reduce the chances of
misfiling, as well as reduce the time wasted on searching for files that are in
use by others.
- When creating/organizing a file system, segregate active files from archive
files. Use a "destroy date" on as many archive boxes as possible.
- When storing archive boxes make sure the contents are labeled on 5 sides.
All 4 sides of the box as well as the top lid. This will expedite the retrieval
process as well as ensure that the contents will be visible from any angle, no
matter who puts the box back.
- Invest in hanging "box" files for categories that contain larger amounts of
data. As a general rule of thumb, if a file grows larger than one inch, it most
likely needs to be further subdivided in order to enhance rapid retrieval. (See
our resource section for product recommendations.)
- After using files during the course of the day, return the file folder to the To
File basket. You wouldn't want to leave them hanging around where they
could potentially get buried with other projects.
- Schedule filing time on a weekly basis. Stick with the same time on a regular
day. This will allow you to create a new and positive habit in maintaining
your files. The task will most likely take you 30 minutes a week or less.
- If you have a tendency to save relevant articles, beware that you are not
saving an entire magazine or newspaper for this purpose. Take the time to
cut out the article, otherwise this will quickly become a "space gobbler" in
your file system. Note: if you stuff an entire paper or magazine in a file
folder chances are you will forget "what" you were saving anyway!
U.S. Executives Waste 150 Hours Per Year:
Source: Office World News - September, '96
- Coopers and Lybrand found that the average executive wastes 150 hours
per year looking for lost, misplace, misfiled or mislabeled documents.
- Additionally the average cost to:
- File a paper document is $30
- Additional labor costs equal $120 if the document is not in the right
- Recreating a lost document either by requesting it again or retyping
it creates an additional $250 worth of labor.
- One in 20 documents is lost and never recovered.
Source:Office Systems March '97
- Business owners, executives, managers and people at all levels who work in
offices attest that the volume of recorded information is reaching avalanche
levels within the workspace.
- Rapid growth of information can cause costly delays when documents are
misplaced, lost or time consuming to retrieve.
- People in management are often forced to work with and make decisions
based on inadequate information resulting in lost business opportunities.
- In order to be responsive to customer needs, remain competitive and be
more successful most companies need to improve the organization-wide
management of their records and data whether electronic or paper based.
- We are more dependant than ever before on having instant access to data
and records as a basis for quality customer and client service.
- Historically, records management is rarely a high priority when
organizations are new and small. As organizations grow, the volume of
recorded information grows in direct proportion.
- Left unmanaged this leads to inefficiency, poor customer service, increased
costs, additional space requirements, potential for excessive litigation and
- Business owners, executives and administrators at all levels of government
have come to learn that organization-wide records management programs
can usually pay for themselves at least once annually in documented savings.
- Appropriate investments in computer-based systems can often pay for
themselves in short periods of time.
- If necessary records and data are not available, then meeting customer
needs is slow, difficult or impossible.
- Although many senior managers may not admit it, their decision making
and overall effectiveness is now tied more closely to the availability or
non-availability of records and information.
- The most successful business owners, executives and administrators know
they'll consistently be better leaders if they have ready access to excellent
and up-to-date records.
- Comparisons of record retrieval from manual filing systems to electronic
document management will show how much staff time and salary dollars --
can be saved when quality records management systems are implemented.
- A good information system positively affects an organization by providing
high quality instant customer and client service.
- Insure vital records and appropriate data are identified and appropriately
- 80-90% of all records in the average organization are paper based.
- Experience continues to show that 30-40% of all recorded information can
be immediately deleted from electronic systems or paper systems.
- Why? Because 30-40% of all recorded information in the average
organization is unnecessary duplicate copies of records that are maintained
elsewhere within the organization.
- Another 20-30% of all records can be transferred to an on-site records area
for maintaining inactive records or out sourced to a commercial records
management center or converted to other media for occasional access.
- 90% of US organizations in private business or industry that lost their
records due to some type of disaster in a 25 year period between 1970 and
1995 -- never opened their doors again!
What to do?
- Perform a walk-through to see for yourself how your organizations records
are or are not being managed.
- Schedule preliminary visits with managers and personnel on all levels to
determine their perception of the present record system.
- If you conclude your present record system can be improved -- what can you
expect to be the ROI if you invest management and personnel effort, time
and money in improving this area of your business?
- As higher quality and faster service is provided to customers and clients,
those individuals and organizations with quality records management
programs can typically bring in more business and also add to the customer
and client base.
- As operations become more efficient, costs proportionate to business
generated - drop. Results of increased profits and an improved bottom line
- Investments of top line management's commitment, effort, time and money
in the development of quality organization-wide records management
programs result in significant and positive returns on those investments.
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