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Office Organizer: Small biz tips on file organizing, record retention and email management

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training,Office Management,Office Organizer,Performance Reviews,Records Retention

A comprehensive document management system can help your business boost productivity, improve the bottom line and stay out of legal trouble.

Here are three ways to organize files for easy retrieval, establish a record retention schedule and tame your wild email inbox.

1. Find paper files—instantly

If you don’t have a filing system that’s built on easy retrieval, you’ll waste a lot of time hunting—plus you won’t make a very good impression on your boss. Try implementing one of these simple filing systems:

Use color coding to your advantage. If you have a different-colored folder for each of your main projects or for each department you regularly work with, finding what you need will be a snap.

Use broad headings for all your files. Choose a broad term like “Expense Reports, 2009,” and file all your procedural memos there, along with copies of expense reports. Other examples of broad headings to use: “Industry News,” “Ad Campaigns” and “Budget 2009.”

Try subdividing broad headings. In your “Budget 2009” hanging file, you could label individual folders with categories such as “Salaries,” “Performance Reviews” and “Production Costs.”

Protect your records and your organization with the sound records management strategy found in Taming the Paper Monster: Records Management, Compliance and File Security

2. Follow record retention guidelines

Every employer must comply with the Federal Trade Commission’s records disposal rule, designed to protect employees from falling prey to identity theft. The rule stipulates that you must “reasonably” destroy paper and electronic records containing identifiable data on job applicants and employees, such as Social Security numbers and credit histories.

However, the rule doesn’t mandate any specific type of disposal method. For paper files, it suggests shredding them; for electronic files, erasing them or using some
other “responsible” means.

Caution: If you don’t properly destroy this data after its statutory retention period expires, you’ll face hefty penalties. Just one mistake here can result in a civil fine of up to $2,500 or, under the worst-case scenario, a class-action lawsuit.

A records retention schedule ensures that your organization keeps the records it needs for operational, legal, fiscal or historical reasons, and then destroys them when they’re no longer useful. You may base your records retention schedule on your own experience, research of legal mandates and on what other companies are doing.

Before you can establish an efficient records management system, you have to know what you have and how long to keep it—legally and for your own business purposes. That’s why it’s important to inventory your records and draw up a company record retention schedule.

Taming the Paper Monster includes a complete Records Retention Schedule that tells you exactly what to keep and for how long, based on the type of business you conduct. Learn More

3. Organize office emails: 4 techniques

Whether your email inbox is cluttered with spam or work-related email, the following techniques can help you gain control of your wild inbox.

Annette Marquis and Gini Courter of Triad Consulting offer this advice to users of Outlook 2003:

1. Move task-oriented email messages out of your inbox if they will take longer than five minutes to handle. Drag each message to your Task folder and change the subject name, so you’ll know its topic at a glance. Then, delete it from your inbox so that all your to-do’s are grouped in one place.

2. Drag email to your Calendar to schedule time for yourself to work on it. Estimate how much time the task will take, then drop it into your schedule.

3. “Add a reminder” when you use a follow-up flag, and the message text will turn red when it’s overdue. That makes it easy to see pressing tasks at a glance. Once you’ve completed the task, manually mark it “complete.”

4. Develop a color scheme for flags, using two or three different colors. You might designate blue for anything to do with your boss and red for a high-priority project. Even if your inbox is full, you’ll be able to spot the hottest items.

With Taming the Paper Monster you'll learn:
  • The 8 steps to effective records management
  • The 7 categories of records you must keep more or less forever
  • The 3 life-cycle stages of every business record
  • Best practices for storing records electronically
  • Onsite vs. offsite storage – what to consider, how to decide
  • 9 data security measures to consider, from low-cost to super-secret
  • How to decide how long to keep records when no requirements exist
  • Record-keeping requirements of important federal laws
  • How to create a Records Retention Guide – five pages of tables that identify hundreds of types of records and documents, and tell you how long each one must be retained
Plus, you'll receive an Appendix that includes contact information for government offices, regulatory agencies, associations and other organizations that offer further resources for effective management of files, records and electronic data.
Order your instantly downloadable copy today!


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