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If you hate filing, consider this: Researchers estimate that 80 percent of the documents that the average business operation files are never used again. Feel better now?

Recordkeeping policies and privacy laws may force some duplication of effort, but you can design more efficient ways to manage and store documents.

Bring your organization into the 21st century ...
Designate an "owner." Lobby for an organizationwide policy that the person who originates a document retains an archive copy. Nobody else needs to keep one "just in case" he or she needs it later.

Pull the pieces together. Combine bits of information across the organization into one database. Does your department's PC inventory duplicate IT department records? Perhaps any additional data you need to track could be added to that system.

Before making a copy or creating a new file, look for a more efficient way to retain what you need. Example: Instead of keeping copies of invoices and other paperwork for all the subscriptions in your department, record what you need in a single database that would note the invoice number only. If you need a copy later, retrieve the invoice from the accounts payable department.

Taming the Paper Monster — get your copy now...
Place it on a shared drive. Instead of distributing report copies to team members, house a single electronic version that everyone can access by computer. When a new paper document arrives that many staff members will need to see, scan it for easy electronic access by everyone.

Add a footer on the document showing where it resides on the computer network so anyone looking at a printed page can easily refer to the entire document.

Save one piece, not many. If you must refer to earlier e-mail messages, adopt a policy of retaining the previous message in the reply. Then, you can delete the earlier message when the new one arrives.

Taming the Paper Monster is your blueprint for establishing an efficient records-management program. You might be surprised to learn that ...
  • People are keeping tons of stuff they don't need. The average office spends $2,000 per year to maintain a single four-drawer filing cabinet, says Taming the Paper Monster, even though 46% of all company files are nonessential.
  • People are throwing away stuff they do need. Taming the Paper Monster identifies 93 types of records that must be kept permanently.
  • Without a formal records retention system, company “rules” for maintaining records are often based more on myth than method.
  • No one is in charge of throwing stuff out. That can change quickly, using the “Originator’s Rule” set forth in Taming the Paper Monster: Whoever generates a document is responsible for its retention.
  • Some types of records are not official “must-keeps,” but companies mishandle them at their peril. For example, even though there’s no overriding federal law governing how personnel records are handled, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act each contain specific requirements on storage and confidentiality of medical records.

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