Shred the Paper and Set Up An Efficient File Management System

As the year begins, it brings the task of setting up and organizing your paperwork and filing-boxing up last year’s records and creating the space for your new files and finding room for storage of the old records. With advances in technologies, we hear more and more about electronic records management and the cloud. Even though many feel much more comfortable with paper files and being able to physically retrieve the information they are looking for, this task is time-consuming and uses a lot of resources. As electronic technologies become more sophisticated, intuitive and user-friendly, many companies are realizing there can be real cost savings in office supplies and productivity by transitioning to an electronic file management system. As baby boomers prepare to retire and a more tech-savvy generation enters the workforce, the timing would seem right to shift from paper to electronic records. This generation having grown up with computers may make developing records uniformity and staff training easier than it has ever been.

So what can you do to prepare for the transition? Use your paper filing system as a model for setting up your electronic records management. For example, if you have a hanging file named “Finances” and folders labeled “ABC Checking”, “ECU Savings”, etc. then set up folders under “My Documents” with those same labels. For easier retrieval, you may label the folder with the date for example “2013-01 ABC Statement”. Follow this procedure until you have set up your system. Remember to keep it simple and follow a pattern with which you are familiar.

The next step should be to set up your vendor accounts so that you can receive your statements, bills and invoices electronically. Then sign up to use the bill pay feature on your bank’s website and use it to pay your vendors or pay them electronically on their websites and save an electronic copy of your receipt. Ask your bank about setting up your account to receive electronic payments also. Whatever you can do to reduce the amount of paper you receive the better.

Yes, your email box may be full; however, this problem is easy to solve. First, ensure your email is set up to trash all junk emails, set up a folder system to aid you in your records management and then establish a consistent schedule for processing your email. Process your email the same way you do the paper mail: is it ready to file as is? Does it need to be added to your to do list? Save copies of invoices, statements or documents to the designated folder in your system. Once you have saved a copy, you can discard that email.

One of the most important obligations you have in transitioning to an electronic file system is ensuring that you have a consistent and reliable back up protocol in place. You can imagine the stress that losing all of your data would cause so be proactive. Copy your files to an external hard drive or flash drive and keep it at a different location than your computer systems.

Once you learn how to effectively use your electronic filing system, you will be pleased with the prospect of smaller paper stacks and fewer file cabinets using your valuable real estate. Happy filing!

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