How is your new year going so far? Splendidly I hope!
Following up from my last post on prepping your calendar for ease and success, the next thing I do to gear up for the new year is clean out my email, online and paper files.
This exercise helps me clear space for fresh, new opportunities and possibility — both mentally and in practical terms. Maybe some of my tips will help you, too. 🙂
- EMAIL: Organize your email folders according to whatever system you employ. I pretty much always keep my emails organized so I don’t tend to have a ton of work here. How I organize my client emails is by client last name. Under each client, I have folders for each month of the year (e.g., “0116” for January 2016). Labeling them numerically keeps them in sequential order. And because I work with attorneys and we go by client matter, I then have folders under each month for each client matter. It may seem like a lot of work, but when you are dealing with a lot of accounts and information and often having to refer back to different things, this is what works best for me and my clients. The search function, I’ve found, is woefully inadequate, inconsistent and unreliable. I’ve thanked myself on more occasions than I can count for putting in this little bit of effort upfront.
- EMAIL: At the end of every month (or on your weekly Admin day), sort your sent and received emails into their respective folders.
- EMAIL: In January (this month!), archive your previous year email folders. You can archive the PST file or simply put them into a year folder for each client. For example, create a 2015 folder for each client and move the monthly folders for that year there.
- ONLINE FILES: Organize your online file folders similar to your email organizing system. For example, in my practice, each client has a main folder by last name. Under each client, there are matter and subject folders. Under each client matter or subject folder are monthly folders. I use a numbering/dating system that keeps documents organized sequentially. For example: (Matter Number) SMITH 2016 0101 Description. Using this or a similar system, your files will be automatically organized as you work throughout each month so no other effort is required.
- ONLINE FILES: In January, create a 2015 folder under each client/matter and move the monthly folders there.
- ONLINE FILES: When it comes to documents and files, I try to keep as much electronically as possible. If you’re looking to go more electronic and convert paper documents to PDF, I highly recommend the Fujitsu ScanSnap products as they make quick work of scanning multiple, two-sided pages into PDF. Of course, it’s still very useful to have a flatbed scanner as well and you can get that with a good all-in-one printer. I tend to like HP’s products.
- ONLINE FILES: That said, we can’t get away from print documents entirely. For example, I’m not going to tear apart a 100-page health insurance guide and scan it to PDF. That wouldn’t be a good use of my time and when it comes to those kind of things, I prefer them to read them in print anyway. So my tip here is not to get too OCD when it comes converting to PDF just for the sake of going electronic. Be smart about how much time you spend on it and what kind of documents you put the effort into.
- PRINT FILES: As far as organizing print files, I have a two-drawer lateral file and hanging files for that. I organize files by subject and color-coded tabs. Clear is for miscellaneous subjects. Green is for clients/income/accounts receivable files. Yellow is for employee/contractor/HR files. Red is for vendors and accounts payable files. And blue is for tax/license/legal/financial files. I tend to keep the green, yellow and blue files all together in their own color sections while I file the clear and red-tabbed folders together alphabetically.
- PRINT FILES: In January, create 2015 folders for any subjects that collect a lot of date-related material and archive your documents accordingly. Keep in mind your state and federal rules for how long you are required to keep business files, which generally tend to be 7-10 years.
- Add a date and reminder on your calendar to do this again next year.
- BONUS TIP: SHRED EVERYTHING! Having been a private investigator in a previous life, safety, security and confidentiality are always concerns of high priority, for myself and for my clients. With that in mind, I keep shredder within arm’s reach of my desk and scanner. If you’re in the market for a shredder, my advice is to ignore the cheap ones. They have smaller feed capacity, get clogged clogged too easily, have their blades warp and burn up their motors too quickly. For just a little bit more money, you can get a better quality one that’ll last for years. I would get one that shreds into little diamonds (not strips) and that has a larger feed capacity (the one I have has a feed capacity of 6 pages at a time).
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