When you went into business, you knew how important it is to be well organised and you’ve stuck to your guns. But there’s always room to do better, isn’t there? Here are some expert tips to help bring even more order to your work.
Give everything a place
Knowing exactly where to find what you need saves time. But you might be shocked to find out quite how much. A 2010 US study conducted by Brother International Corporation found that the typical employee spends around 19 minutes a day looking for misplaced files, documents and equipment. Don’t think that sounds too bad? Add it up and it amounts to 76 lost hours a year – or just over two working weeks. They estimated that this costs businesses almost $177 billion in lost productivity.
With that in mind, one of the most important things you can do is establish a workable filing system for your paperwork and stick to it. Never let bills and other documents pile up on your desks as they can get moved around to accommodate other piles of work.
Ensuring everything is in its right place can help you speed up your processes. For example, you could create a place for all your unpaid bills and invoices that also homes everything you need to make the payment. So if you regularly pay by cheque, it would contain your bills together with your chequebook, envelopes, stamps and address stickers. This way, when it’s time to pay up, you won’t be looking around for anything – you grab this box file, pay the bills, file them and put it back.
You can follow this approach to streamline your correspondence, invoicing and so on. There are a wide range of desk accessories you can choose from to help keep everything you need together.
Simplify your accounts
Make it easier to manage your accounts by keeping only the current year’s accounts receivable and accounts payable files close at hand and filing the rest away. That way you’ll always know where to find the latest invoices, bills paid, balance sheets, banking statements and insurance policies.
Some bookkeepers choose to keep 12 separate files for January through December and everything paid and received each month is filed accordingly. You can even add separate tickler files for bills that need to be paid on specific dates. This can be easily achieved with tabbed files or an accordion file with tabs for each month. Alternatively, you could sort your records by supplier, keeping each bill paid in the appropriate supplier’s file.
At the end of the year, depending on the amount of paperwork you’ve generated, you can put that year’s legal and financial documents in a banker’s box or accordion file. This way, should you have an audit or need to track down any specific paperwork, you’ll have a neat, orderly archive that makes finding it simple.
Another simple trick help you avoid any late fees is to set aside a regular time each week to pay your bills. You can also use that time to take care of payroll and any other financial tasks. You’ll save time getting it all sorted out at once, and you can be confident that you’re on top of your finances.
Cut out the clutter
Digitising important documents is a simple way to reduce the amount of paperwork cluttering up your office. All it takes is a portable scanner.
You can then store your records online and simply download them when needed using document management software or Google Drive, whichever suits you. If you want to ensure you never lose, renew or cancel contracts, you could also try a web-based contract-management tool called Cloudtract. It’s free, it’s secure and it sends an alert whenever a contract is about to expire.
Of course, if you intend to replace important paperwork with digital documents, it’s essential you back up your files regularly, and keep them safe and secure in an encrypted, password-protected cloud account or other network storage. Then you’ll save time, space and money being able to access your files from wherever you are.
Make sure your processes fit
The most important thing to realise is that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. You need to work out which tools and strategies suit your specific needs. So take a thorough look at the processes you already have or are prepared to adopt, and then choose a system that helps you achieve them.
Ultimately, you have to find the system that works best for you, your staff and your business.