Archive for the ‘Office Organization’ Category

Creating Space for a Great New Year to Happen

Creating Space for a Great New Year to Happen

I’m not much of a spring cleaner. I’m more of a fall cleaner. This time of year feels buzzy with excitement and possibility. There’s a fresh sense of renewal, energy and optimism. I find it the perfect time to start gearing for what’s coming by making physical — and mental — space for all that good juju to come to fruition.

One of the ways I prepare for success is by purging, regrouping and organizing. Below are a few activities you might to consider starting now as well.

  1. Organizing Emails. I’m an Outlook user. Personally, I like using folders to store and organize emails. The search feature fails to find mail I’m looking far too often to be a reliable method. So what I do is create folders under the Personal Folders/Saved Files section rather than in my Inbox area. The only emails I am a packrat about are those to and from clients. I give each client a folder and under each client, I create subfolders for each month. This has proven to be a lifesaver on more occasions than I can count.
  2. Deleting or Archiving Old Emails. Around the end of the year, I go through my list of folders and archive those of clients with whom I am no longer working. I keep six months of current client folders and archive the rest.
  3. Taking Stock of Your Online Documents. Do a quick run-through of your document files and folders and see where you can better organize, consolidate and purge.
  4. Cleaning Out the Supply Closet. I’m sort of an organizing freak so this is something I enjoy doing periodically. Supply areas are places where we tend to put “stuff” and forget about it. Clean out the old, recycle, give away extra or old equipment to someone who can use it, and create new space (physically and energetically) for the new year with a clean slate.
  5. Streamlining Hardcopy Files. Even with an online business where just about everything is on the computer, there is still a lot of paper in my life. I turn most of that into PDF and store online with everything else. I’ve also gone entirely electronic billing and online bill pay. However, paper is still a fact of life. There are just some things that are easier to read when they are printed out. Scanning printed materials to turn them into PDFs does create an extra job that you might not have time for, and sometimes it’s just not a practical or worthwhile effort. So for the paper that I do keep, I have five different hanging folder filing sections:|
    Green
    – Clients

    Blue – Tax, Licensing and Financial/Banking

    Red – Accounts Payable

    Yellow – Employees/Contractors/Subcontractors

    Clear – Subject files (miscellaneous). For those folders that deal with date ranges, this is a good time to add a new folder for the coming year. For example, say you have a file for bank statements and you keep these in a folder marked with the current year. Now is the time to create new folders for the coming year and stick them in the file. Then at the end of the year, when you are pulling out old files (such as old clients you no longer work with), you can also pull out all your 2016 folders for storage and you’ll already have the new 2017 folders ready to go.

  6. Add some to-dos and automated reminders for December & January to your calendar to revisit your start of the new year tasks.

10 Tips for Cleaning Up Your Email, Online and Print Document Files for the New Year

10 Tips for Cleaning Up Your Email, Online and Print Document Files for the New Year

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. 🙂

  1. 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.
  2. EMAIL: At the end of every month (or on your weekly Admin day), sort your sent and received emails into their respective folders.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. ONLINE FILES: In January, create a 2015 folder under each client/matter and move the monthly folders there.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Add a date and reminder on your calendar to do this again next year.
  11. 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).

Power Productivity & Biz Management for Administrative ConsultantsRESOURCE: Get my entire practice management system with more in-depth examples and illustrations over at the ACA Success Store: Power Productivity & Biz Management: The 14 Simple Systems that Will Breathe Freedom, Flexibility and LIFE Back into Your Business and Client Relationships

3 Simple Things You Can Do in a Day to Get Your 2013 Off to an Organized Start

Three easy things you can do in a day to get your 2013 off to an organized start:

1. Get your calendar (and/or that of your clients) in order. Add holidays, vacations and other planned or desired days off. Mark off your Admin Day, Meeting Day and/or any other regularly scheduled meetings for the whole year. Add any known events (e.g., conferences, trade shows, seminars, trainings, etc.) that you’d like or are planning to attend. Mark off anything else that you know off that you need to reserve or create time and space for and that you don’t want anything else conflicting or interfering with.

2. Clean out your emails and folders. Archive old messages and folders. Create new folders for 2013. (Tip: When in doubt about whether to delete something, think of it like this: If you haven’t dealt with it for nearly a year, you’re never going to look at it again so just purge. You’ll never miss it and you will feel LOADS lighter.)

3. Clean out and organize your paper file drawers and computer files. Create new folders for 2013. Get rid of as much paper as you can, only keeping what really needs to be printed and/or what is most convenient to be read in printed form.

Bonus Tip #4:  Add this to-do to your calendar in November or December so you’ll be sure to have this done again before 2014 comes around.

Today Is a Great Day to Prep Your 2013 Calendar for Freedom and Success

One of the ways to facilitate your freedom and success is to be prepared for it. That means taking charge of your time by being conscious about all that you have on your plate and creating space for important actions, events and goals. Your calendar is the starting point for this and now is the perfect time to get yours ready for 2013!

1. Block out all your “off” days. For example, Mondays are my “business days” where I am officially closed. I don’t do any client work; instead, I focus on taking care of my own business and use that time for administration and planning. I shade out that time because it makes me conscious about not making any appointments on that day.

2. Block out holidays. Go through the year and block out any holidays you plan to be closed.

3. Block out vacations. If you know in advance of any vacations you plan to take off, block those out as well to ensure you don’t schedule anything on those days.

4. Block out your breaks and lunches. This might seem silly and unnecessary, especially since we business owners can eat or take a break any time we like. But if you are someone who has difficulty maintaining boundaries, these can serve as daily reminders to be conscious about taking care of yourself. It’s important—you can’t take excellent care of others unless you first take excellent care of yourself.

5. Carry over regular meetings. Review this year’s calendar. If you have regular weekly or monthly meetings, be sure and carry-over and repeat them through 2013. Perhaps you have a weekly call with your business coach on Tuesdays at 3pm and a monthly board meeting at 1pm on the third Wednesday of every month. Get all of these regularly scheduled appointments on your calendar for the entire year.

6. Add known events
. Are there trade shows, conferences, training or other events you plan to attend? Be sure and add them to your calendar and it will help support your intention.

7. Mark important dates. Are there client birthdays, anniversaries or other important dates you want to remember on a regular basis? Add them to your calendar!

This article was originally published in our weekly ezine on December 21, 2009.

Remember to Record All Your Expenses

Just received this admonishment from my financial planner and it’s good wisdom to pass onto you:

Remember to record ALL your expenses!

That includes every mile to and from networking events, meetings with clients, and trips to the office supply (even if you didn’t purchase anything), printshop and any other vendors. Track every bit of meal, entertainment, travel and even retreat expenses (e.g., trips you take for the purpose of business planning, development, writing and visioning).

That roadtrip you went on so you could work on your business visioning, planning and strategizing? That day you took the laptop to your favorite cafe to work from for a few hours? All that mileage and those expenses count, too.

Even some of the purchases you make such as appliances that you share in the home that are also used for business can represent deductions (e.g., that television that you plug your laptop into and work from).

If in doubt, record it anyway and your accountant can let you know what, if anything, is not eligible.

It’s too easy to dismiss things and not bother recording them because we aren’t sure. Don’t worry about that. Just record them!

You and your accountant will sort through the details later.

It’s far easier to do that than it is to go back later to try and recapture and retrace things.

The tax savings from these deductions can be significant!

If you feel you haven’t fully tracked these things, go back to your bookkeeping, calendar and receipts to retrace your tracks and purchases so you can benefit come filing time (which is just around the corner).

I have resolved to be more meticulous in my mileage and travel expense tracking in 2013. How about you?

How Your Biz Space Contributes to Your Success

How Your Biz Space Contributes to Your Success

I was conducting my productivity and business management class when a colleague who was attending mentioned that one challenge she faces is a very small office space (roughly 8.5 x 6.5 feet).

She explained that her area is very cramped and cluttered at the moment and that she intends to spend some time over the next month culling out materials, reorganizing and making room for new systems that work better for her.

I agreed that her plan was a fabulous idea because first and foremost, whenever you clear out the clutter and get rid of that which isn’t working for you, you make room for the new and better and more ideal to come into your life.

Plus, besides facilitating happier, more productive workflows and energies, the care and love you put into your space permeates your business overall and translates into the care and respect and love you give to your work and clients.

I love my business. It’s enriched my life so much. It’s what has allowed me to live the life I want to live, and it’s contributed to my personal growth and happiness in huge and unexpected ways.

And so, besides creating a space that I enjoy being in, that nurtures my creativity and productivity (because let’s face it, we spend a large part of our lives engaged in our work), giving it the care and attention it deserves is a reflection of the love, care, seriousness, respect and gratitude I have for my business, my art (my work) and my clients.

Your space doesn’t need to be huge. No matter what space you have available, even if right now it’s a corner in the bedroom or part of the kitchen table, the important thing… the thing that will contribute to your overall happiness and success… is to dedicate it to the business. Don’t make it share or compete with anyone or anything else.

Carve out your little corner and dress it up so that it makes your heart smile being in it.

Organize it so that your movements can be fluid and flowing.

Put as much tender loving care into your space as you want your business and clients to give back to you!

 

Create More Desk Space with These Organizing Tips

Create More Desk Space with These Organizing Tips

Piles aren’t necessarily a bad thing.

As long as you are managing them (and not the other way around), they can actually be quite useful.

But if you find that they are impeding your progress instead of supporting it, if you’re constantly working around your piles instead of with them, it’s time to gain the upper hand.

First Things First

  • Understand why you pile. Is your workspace really working for you? Do you need a larger area or more storage? A bigger or more efficient desk? Is it a case of needing more consistent, effective habits? Is there something going on in the business that is causing you to drag your feet? Identifying some of the root needs will tell you what your next steps should be.

Create More Workspace

  • Utilize closet storage to keep clutter you don’t need or use every day (such as office supplies) out of eyesight.
  • Install shelving to get books and other resources off your desk.
  • Use binders to group and store certain hardcopy information that can then be shelved.
  • Use stack trays. Assign each slot a particular category of information (e.g., by client or project). Instead of taking up several spots across your desk, you are making more use of vertical air space.
  • Get some wall slots. These make for perfect to-do bins, in-boxes, or storing active client files. I use magnetic ones that I place on each side of my lateral file drawer. Makes great use of space that would otherwise go unused.
  • Add more drawers. If your desk doesn’t have built-in drawers, buy a roll-away file drawer. Drawer space is particularly handy for tickler systems and keeping supplies and info you need regularly at your fingertips, but out of the way.
  • Write on the wall. Whiteboards and chalkboards are great for instantly capturing those ideas and to-dos that flitter across your mind. Once completed, you simply wipe them off — a sure-fire cure for post-it clutter. Whiteboards these days also come in magnetic models for double-duty and have come way down in price. Or, paint a wall with chalkboard paint.

Instill More Productive Habits

  • Put things away. Everything should have a place of its own. When you are done with something, put it back, if not right then, at least by the end of the day. Make this a habit.
  • Observe the rule of 3. When you start to create that fourth pile, you know it’s time to stop, regroup and clear out the clutter. Piles should be a productivity tool, not a default.
  • Reserve piles for active projects. These piles might be comprised of any amount of paperwork, notebooks, reference books, etc., and sorted by project. Piles you aren’t actively engaged with need to be dealt with and dispersed.
  • Don’t let Shiny Object Syndrome get the best of you. By all means, indulge those creative, entrepreneurial ideas. Store them in a hardcopy or online notebook. But better to finish existing projects first than to start new ones that will only add to your piles, overwhelm and inertia. Completion creates a positive forward momentum in and of itself.
  • Use a tickler system. This is a set of hanging file folders numbered 1-31 (one for each day of a month). A ton of desktop paper clutter can be reduced and better managed with this system. Each morning, check that day’s folder. Keep out the work you can do that day. Move any work you can’t forward into the next day’s folder. Store notes and papers with dates and deadlines in the corresponding numbered folders. When that date rolls around, you have everything right there in the folder ready to go.

RESOURCE: Aesthetics are very important to me in my surroundings. I love See Jane Work because they get that business and organization can be both functional and stylish. They always have a large and ever-new selection of binders and desk sets in fashionable colors and designs.

Were these ideas useful to you? Let me know if the comments!