Article by Marina Copeland
Being organized is one of the most important things you can do for an office. It helps your team to operate efficiently, allows you to ensure that processes and projects run smoothly, and keeps people motivated while they work.
It’s amazing how much better an office can be when you have an intelligent filing system and well thought out processes for staying organized. This is true for everything, from your financial statements to notes from meetings about client projects.
With the right system in place, you can prevent unnecessary stress when people need access to documents or information that isn’t immediately at hand.
Need a helping hand in getting your office organized?
Here are 6 helpful hacks that make document and record organization easy:
Create Categories And Labels That Make Sense To You
The first thing you need is a filing system. This applies to all kinds of documents—both hard copy and digital. You need to have categories and subcategories that are logical for your business and the people working on the documents.
The system should be hierarchical too, so that there is a logical process for finding the documents once you’ve filed them.
Start with broad categories—financial documents, project documents, employee documents. Then break those down into subcategories that fit the way you run the business.
Under project documents, you could have initial client contact and meetings, then project scope and specifications, the team members assigned to the project, the deadlines involved, and so on. It’s all about creating a flow that’s easy to follow and remember.
Mirror Your Digital And Hard Copy Filing System
Once you have a system in place, make sure that you use it everywhere. Too often, people will use one system for their hard copies and another setup altogether for digital documents or records. This makes it incredibly hard to find information because you aren’t sure which system you’re following. It can also lead to documents getting misfiled and potentially lost forever.
Depending on how your business operates, it will be best to start with one system and then mirror it over to the other side. If you’re mostly a paper business, you want to start with a hard copy filing system that makes sense and then back that up with the digital system and vice versa.
Consider Your Digital Backup Solution
In the digital age, backing up your filing system is crucial. It’s important to think about how often you may need to refer back to a document or if you are simply keeping it because it’s regulation to do so. If it’s a document that you need to access repeatedly, like a contract or policy document for a client project, you might want to consider a cloud storage solution. This you can access anytime and from anywhere that you have an internet connection.
On the other hand, files like old bank statements and insurance records don’t need to get accessed regularly. You can store these on a more traditional backup option, like an external hard drive that you keep off site.
Don’t Forget About Email Management
Emails are a massive part of communication these days. They also serve as a paper trail for important conversations in businesses and should get treated as such.
You need to think about how you backup your emails, how they get organized, and whether you can access them remotely. In fact, it’s not a bad idea to set up an automated system for storing and securing email communications, including the attachments that come with those emails.
There are many ways to do this. You can get an email management solution that does everything for you. However, this can be a pricey affair for smaller businesses. Instead, you can set up specific routines and rules for all email accounts on your server. These can automatically save or backup emails. You can even set rules to recover deleted emails, just in case something gets moved to trash accidentally.
Set Up A Calendar For Filing, Archiving And Destroying
It’s one thing to set up a system for filing. It’s another thing entirely to ensure you stick to the system and stay on top of the filing and organization. In fact, you need to ensure that you have a schedule for staying organized.
It may not always be possible to file away documents—both hard copy and digital—the moment you get them or finish working with them. Life and other work can get in the way. However, if you don’t actively make time for filing and organizing, it can easily get on top of you. This is why it’s so important to have a specific schedule for your filing. The same way you send out client invoices every month on a specific date, you should have a time in your calendar to ensure you get to the filing once a week or once a month.
You should also remember to do cleanouts of documents that you no longer need. In terms of client contracts or project documents, you can decide how long to keep those. When it comes to official documents, there are general time limits:
- Tax records need to be kept for 10 years
- Utility bills for 1 year
- Credit card statements for 6 months
- Insurance records for 5 years
Keep Your Office Clean
It might seem strange to include office cleaning on this list of organizational hacks, but it is so important. Making sure the office is clean—from your computer screens to the window ledges—can help you ensure documents don’t go missing.
You’ll also be more motivated to keep items properly filed if everything is cleaned regularly. It keeps you invested in your office space and sets the right tone.
The Bottom Line
An organized office offers numerous benefits. It’s the key to maximizing efficiency and minimizing stress, and these 6 hacks make it easy. There’s no better time to sort, file and clean your office than right now!