Ask any business person what the most demanding part of the day is, and they’re certain to notify you that staying constantly organized and productive ranks as number one. And it’s no surprise. No matter what business you’re in, you build up paperwork everyday (invoices, work orders, research documents, correspondence, etc.); it’s easy to rapidly become sidetracked under a mound of disorganized files.
As much as people try to refuse it, office organization has a discrete link with productivity. The faster you can find a necessary file or significant legal document, the more productive you’ll be. But that doesn’t mean you have to be a smart freak to be productive. It merely means you need to discover more efficient ways to handle your daily paper flow.
If organization and productivity issues challenge you as much as they do other people, here are three tips to assist you beat them and attain the productivity level you need to be successful.
Question every piece of paper that crosses your desk.
These days, businesses create more paperwork than ever. However, research shows that we use only 20 percent of the paperwork we maintain. The challenge is deciding which 80 percent you can throw.
For each piece of paper that crosses your desk, ask yourself, “Does this piece of paper require action?” “Does it need to be filed away for future reference?” “Does it exist elsewhere?” “Is it recent enough to be useful?” “How hard would it be to get again?” And finally, “What’s the worst thing that could happen if I don’t have this piece of paper?” If you can live with the results, flip it.
The key here is to get rid of as much paper as possible. When you’re not digging through stacks of worthless files just to find the one related document, you’re saving time and being more productive.
Create a filing system that works.
Once you come to a decision which papers you certainly need to keep, you now need to execute a simple and efficient filing system. File information according to how you will use it, not where you got it.
To determine a title for a file, ask yourself, “If I need this again, what word will I think of?” Then develop a file index by listing the words alphabetically. Use it just as you would a “chart of accounts” to find out which accounts to charge an expense.
When you know where your documents are, you can offer your customers one key advantage: instant access to information — the same advantage the Internet offers. Being able to do this eliminates the threat the Internet poses and gives you a competitive edge.
Manage your paper on the road.
Most business people have modest administrative support to assist keep track of clients and files, particularly when traveling for business. As a result, many entrepreneurs come across their briefcases littered with scraps of paper and Post It[TM] notes containing obscure or scribbled information.
While they may think they’re saving time by not being comprehensive on the road, they’re in fact causing more time to be lost because of the amount of arrangement and “catch up” work they must do when they return to the office.
Whenever you leave your office — whether it’s for a lunchtime business meeting or a week-long convention — keep three main files in your briefcase: “file,” “act,” and “call.” As you collect papers that need to be filed in your main filing system, put them in your “file” folder and mark the category name in the document’s upper right-hand comer.
This will make filing the item a breeze when you come back to the office. In the “act” file place those items that need urgent action when you revisit, and place contact information for those people you need to call in your “call” folder. Merge this system with your now organized main filing system and you’ll never dread another business trip.
Now that you’re ready to get organized and be more productive, where do you start? The fact is, it doesn’t matter. One thing is for certain: the longer you wait to begin getting your office in order, the more time it will take and the more challenging it will be.
Organizing your office for improved productivity is just like any other skill. It takes practice to become perfect. Start today so that you too can pick the rewards of an organized and productive office.