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.
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.
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.