1. Assess your space
Before you set up an office or re-organize an existing one, you'll want to think about the purpose of this space. Many of the tasks you do in an office inspire procrastination, so it's particularly important that you like being there. Make sure you have a comfortable desk chair and proper lighting. If your walls are white, hang shelves or pictures to cut down on glare.
2. Round up the right tools
It is essential that you clear your office of piles and put all documents in an upright position so that you can quickly locate them without digging. Whether you use filing cabinets, filing crates or filing boxes is a personal choice. Just make sure you have some sort of filing system.
You'll want to lay out your space so that the files you use most can be stored close to your desk, while the files you access less frequently can be stored farther away. If you don't have a lot of space, you can store the files that you almost never need, such as old tax documents, in another room entirely.
3. Everything needs a place
As you clean out your office and deal with future paperwork, consider the mantra -- everything needs a place. Even if that place is in the recycling bin remember the mnemonic "RAT" (so you won't be a Pack RAT) to each piece of paper that crosses your desk. That is, you should retain it, act on it or toss it.
These same rules apply to e-mails and electronic files. Your computer desktop is not the place for documents to be floating around; they belong in files. As e-mails come in, you should delete them, file them, or read them and reply immediately.
4. Think before you print
You can't blame all of your clutter on mail, unfortunately. We also create a lot of the paper piles on our own. With so much information at our fingertips as we surf the Web, it can be tempting to print every interesting thing we find. But stop and think before hitting the print button. Will that information be available in the future on that site or elsewhere? Most likely. Will you read it if you print it out? Probably not.5. Create a record retention policy
Despite technological advances, there are certain files, such as personnel records and corporate documents, that you'll need to keep for an extended period of time, or possibly forever. According to Iron Mountain, a national records management company, approximately 5% of a company's records need to be kept indefinitely. The remaining 95% of your files can either be thrown away immediately or kept for a defined period of time, then discarded. To manage this process, you'll need a record retention plan. The following simple file management guidelines are helpful:
- Keep indefinitely: annual financial statements, corporate documents (including corporate charter, deeds and easements, stock, minutes of board of directors' meetings, labor contracts, trademark and registration applications), and income tax paperwork and payment checks.
- Keep for 6 years: bank statements, voided checks, purchase records (purchase orders, payment vouchers, vendor invoices), and sales records (invoices, monthly statements, shipping papers and customers' purchase orders).