There’s something about filing that always makes my eyes glaze over – and filing for any length of time puts me in danger of falling into a coma.
Apparently I’m not the only person who hates filing out there. Look at this poll, for instance, which asks, “Which office chore do you hate the most?” Filing is the clear winner of the contest.
But unfortunately, hate it or not, when you run a small business, filing has to be done, or you’ll soon find your desk collapsing under the weight of all the paper that keeps piling up. What’s a filing hater to do?
There are two approaches to the problem that might help. You can try to make your time filing as short as possible (a method I’ve almost perfected over years of running an office) or make your time filing as much fun as possible (something I keep trying to accomplish). Let’s look at tips for cutting down the amount of time you actually spend filing first.
1. Shred and recycle when possible.
The first question about any piece of paper staring up at you waiting to be filed is, “Does this document need to be filed?” A lot of the documents that come in the mail can go directly into the shredder. What’s the point in filing ads or informational letters from other companies, for instance? When you're dealing with mail, read a piece of mail once, decide whether you'll need it a year from now and file or shred it accordingly.
Chances are good you’re also filing a lot of hard copies of documents that you don’t need to be filing – and shouldn’t even be printing in the first place. There’s no need to file paper copies of invoices or letters, for example, if your electronic files are organized and you’re following proper backup procedures. (See 6 Rules of Business Data Protection and Setting Up a Successful Backup System for details on how to do this.)
So when you’re tackling that pile of filing, shred the “paper you can live without”.
2. Use a filing system that makes other office chores easier, not harder.
Most of the paper that I need to be filing is related to the process of doing business – and these documents need to be entered into the accounting system before anything else is done with them. So instead of taking that receipt for a printer toner cartridge and filing it under “P” in my main filing system, I file it in my “first” filing system, a series of folders labeled by month and year.
For example, if I purchased the toner cartridge in September 2013, that’s the file it goes in, along with all the other bills, receipts and other business documents that occurred within that month. Then it’s a simple matter to work through the folder at the end of the month and make all the accounting entries that need to be made (or, if you’re not doing it yourself, to hand the monthly folder over to your bookkeeper).
Note that I run a service business, not a retail business, so sitting down and working on the accounts once a month works for me. You’ll need to modify the monthly folder idea accordingly if you need to bring your accounts up to date more frequently.
Continue on to the next page of this article for more "Filing Tips for People Who Hate Filing"...