If I walked into your workspace right now and see a mess (papers piled high on the desk and stuffed in every corner and drawer you could find), it means two things: you are not purging often enough and getting rid of useless work, and you don’t have a good filing system (a home for your paperwork). It is just that simple.
Getting organized can seem overwhelming, but if you schedule time to do it, get the right supplies, and take one spot at a time, it could be over quickly.
- Find out how long you need to keep files (your records retention schedule). Your tax attorney, the IRS, or your secretary of state’s office can help.
- Get plenty of extra large garbage bags, a shredder, and recyle bins.
- Go through each pile and ask yourself the following questions to determine if you should keep something or not.
When was the last time I referred to this?
If you haven’t needed it in the past six months, you probably won’t.
- Do I have to keep this for legal reasons or do I love it or value it?
The information in your records retention schedule will help you determine the legalities involved. If you can’t use it, it has no value.
- Can I get this information somewhere else?
Can you Google it? Does someone else or an institution such as a bank have the information?
- What would happen if I need it later and don’t have it?
If you get rid of something and by some miracle need it later, if you can live with the consequences of having thrown it out, let it go.
Keep going with this as long as you can stand it. Reward yourself as you go through each phase but only after you can see some results…don’t give up too soon.
Peggy Duncan, SCORE Atlanta
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I’m a productivity and technology speaker, trainer, author, and consultant. I own The Digital Breakthroughs Institute in Atlanta GA.