When it comes to paperwork, the easiest thing to do is to make sure it never arrives in the first place! Go digital when you can. Not only does it reduce paperwork that takes up physical space in your home, it reduces paper usage in general. Good stuff! At Organize to Excel, we aim to eliminate waste and help the environment wherever possible.
If (when!) you follow my advice about paperwork, you’ll end up with more digital files than paper ones. But if you don’t have a filing system in place on your computer, you’re just swapping paper clutter for digital clutter.
Here are my top 4 tips for digital organizing, keeping your computer files as neat and tidy as your physical ones.
1. Mimic Real Life
Would you throw your mail on the floor as soon as you brought it in the house? Do you file everything as “Important”? If you do, give us a call and we can help you straighten that out!
It doesn’t make sense to do these things, because all you’d get is a big pile of mail on your floor, and tons of time wasted spent searching for that one bill you kinda remember being in this pile…or is it this pile? Eek!
Physical clutter is more obvious than digital clutter because it’s in the way when you try to eat dinner at the table, or a tripping hazard in your hallway. And, you have to physically go through items one at a time. But digital clutter is real, and it’s costing you time and money you don’t need to spend.
Imagine your computer is a tiny filing cabinet. It needs labels, folders, and subfolders. It needs an internal logic, so the folders and subfolders are useful. If you think about digital files like they’re paper, it only makes sense to put them in some sort of order.
Let’s talk about how to file paperwork so you can find what you need, fast!
The whole point of filing is to find paperwork fast! If your filing system is chaotic, you’re making yourself work harder. I don’t want that for you! Dial down the difficulty when searching for paperwork by using these tips.
File Naming Conventions
Having standardized terminology for your files keeps search time to a minimum, with both digital and physical files. For physical files, use consistent dates and names. You want to make it easy on your eyes to follow along as you look through the files. If you’re looking through the files you have on home maintenance, and most of your files are labeled like “2020 Repair Bills,” and a few are named like, “Housekeeping – 2020,” you’re making your brain do extra work when you search. Keep it consistent, and save your brainpower for something more fun!
To make searching for digital files easier, include multiple search terms in the file name. Think about what you’ll want to know when you’re trying to find it. If you’re looking for a particular bank statement, what search terms would you use to find it? Adding the bank name, the account name, and the statement date means you can find it three different ways!
Paper Files: 5-20 Items Rule of Thumb
Use cascading hierarchies when creating your paper files. For instance, you could keep all your insurance paperwork together in one hanging folder, and have paperwork for the individual policies in separate interior folders. This means you only have one place to go to look for anything regarding insurance, and if you know which policy you’re looking for you can narrow it down even further. Instead of flipping through dozens of different pieces of paper, you can go right to what you’re looking for.
It’s hard to find paperwork fast when your files are three inches thick. The best rule of thumb I have for keeping hierarchies neat and easy to use is this: If you have fewer than five items in one category, that’s a sign that you could condense it with another. More than twenty items should be split up into subcategories.
For instance, say you have files relating to places you want to travel to. If you only want to go to New Zealand and visit Lord of the Rings locations, you only need one folder. If you want to go to every state in the US and have paperwork about each state you want to visit, then a folder for each state will be helpful. This helps avoid overstuffed folders that are difficult to look through and avoids having unnecessary folders as well.
Make it even easier on yourself by using labeling, color coding, or different locations for these categories. If you use your labels or colors consistently, soon you’ll be able to see what you’re looking for at a glance.
Action items are a type of paperwork that needs attention, like reminders of appointments, or a bill that’s coming due.
One common mistake people make when organizing their paperwork is keeping action items out to help them remember. Put away the paper and keep the reminder. Keeping an action item on your desk leads to clutter. Have a specific place for action items, so you know where to look for them when it is time to take that action.
Have a reminder system in place. You can set a reminder on your phone, write it in a paper planner, or use one of the action item systems below, and put the paper away.
Organizing business paperwork takes dedication and consistency, but once you have systems in place and you (and your employees) use them, it becomes a routine part of business life. Here are my ways to make organizing business paperwork go more smoothly.
1. Shred it and Forget it
When paperwork is past its “keep until” date, shred it if it has personal information. If you have a small business you may be fine with a small shredder. For larger businesses, there are also services like Shred-It that pick up shreddable materials and turn them into recycled paper.
2. New Year, New Folders
At the beginning of your financial year, create new folders you can use throughout the year. Keep in mind the 5-20 rule! Any folder with fewer than 5 items in it should be combined with another, and any folder with more than 20 should be subdivided into other folders. This streamlines searching for documents, saving you time and money!
Why organize your paperwork? Organizing your paperwork clears piles of paper cluttering your space, helps you find information efficiently, keeps you on top of bills and to-dos, and avoids late fees, missed deadlines, and wasting time. Organize your paperwork to reduce stress, have a clear mind, and focus on what matters.
The first step toward fully organized paperwork is to sort. When I am clearing someone’s desk, we use use RAFTS to sort paperwork. What does RAFTS stand for?
Reviewing each aspect of your business on a regular basis is an essential part of success! The longer you track your KPIs, the better they can inform what goals you can reach for next.
What to Review: The Seven Essential Elements
Every business is a unique combination of the Seven Essential Elements, which are:
When to Review
Daily/Weekly: Elements of your business that change or fluctuate frequently need to be reviewed more often, like sales, marketing, business development, some financial aspects, and operations. If you make lots of small sales, reviewing each day may be the best way to go. You can also review daily AND weekly, to see small and large trends in your sales.
Monthly/Quarterly/Yearly: These reviews are where you capture big-picture information, and are especially useful in the business development, overall financial planning, human resources, and legal elements of your business.
Note that there’s some overlap between the categories! Daily or weekly financial reviews can give you information about day-to-day sales, while an annual review of your business finances can give you data you can compare to previous years, and help make projections for next year.
Maximize your closet with these space-saving closet tools!
Storing your clothing and accessories in a way that makes them easy to access and put away is pretty much the goal of this entire series of posts! No matter your closet style, no matter what you store in your closet, I want to make your life EASIER. Here are my tips for choosing the right closet storage tools for you.
Remember: whenever possible, use or repurpose any closet storage tools you already have on hand. Decluttering your closet only to clutter it back up with organizers is not the goal here, and using or repurposing what you have makes economical and ecological sense.
Shoes do not belong in piles! It makes them hard to find and easy to damage. The cheapest option is to keep them in their original shoe box. They’re stackable, fairly sturdy, and you can use a written label or picture on the front to identify which shoes are where. Shoe organizers are usually better space-savers. Check out this one made of recycled plastic bottles!
When all tasks have the same priority level, it’s difficult for you and your employees to know what to do first. I recommend using a time management matrix like Stephen Covey’s to separate tasks into categories based on importance and urgency.
Create a list of tasks that are done on a daily or weekly basis in your business, and separate them into these categories. Use my free downloadable worksheet to guide you through the process!
Once you have categorized your tasks, you can create a schedule based around the high-priority tasks, and schedule less urgent or important tasks around those foundational blocks.
Step 2: Training
Knowing which tasks to do is only useful if you and your employees know how to complete those tasks! Creating workflows for each task is essential, so that there’s a clearly defined process for reaching each goal. Make sure that each person is trained in these processes, so they can work independently when possible.
Use my closet organizing tips to achieve your dream closet!
Tip 1: Keep Like with Like
Keeping similar things together means you can visually assess what you’ve got. When your sweaters and pants and skirts are all in a jumble on the closet floor, it’s hard to know how many of each thing you have. Separating items by category keeps your wardrobe balanced. It also makes things easier to find. Just like a file folder with subfolders inside, you can create a system in your closet that makes locating items simple. No more digging through piles to find that one sleeveless top you know is somewhere in there. It’s with the other sleeveless tops!
Of course, there are many different ways to categorize items–you don’t have to do it by sleeve length. Use whatever method works best for you. If you’re not sure which to pick, roll a die and pick one at random. Try it out for a few weeks and see how it feels!
You can sort by
There are tons of options! You can even sort by outfit! If there are pieces you know you always wear together, group them.
Tip 2: Hanging vs. Folding
Are you a hanger, a folder, or a mix of the two? I like a hybrid approach where the type of garment determines my storage method. Blouses and pants that crease and wrinkle are best hung up, while denim and t-shirts are great for compact folding. That’s not to say you can’t hang it all! If you’ve got the room, go for it.
Set achievable business goals with my SMART PATH system.
Running a business can be tough. People like to be challenged, but not overwhelmed. How do you make sure your business goals are engaging and realistic?
Tackling too much
Having big dreams for your business is great! But just like making a New Year’s resolution to never eat a carbohydrate again, or to go from never jogging to a marathon winner by February, if the bar is set too high, the chance of burnout or failure increases.
So, how do you make progress without burnout?
In my experience, it’s difficult to make progress until you pay attention to the process rather than the end goal. Instead of making major changes immediately, I advise business owners to break their goals down into the SMART PATH system.You’ve likely heard of SMART goals, and adding the PATH to achieving them increases productivity without sacrificing morale.