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By: Eve Abbott

10 Easy Maintenance Tips vs Piling on the Chaos
By Eve Abbott, Excerpted from her new book,
How to Do Space Age Work with a Stone Age Brain TM

Whether you are in your own business or an employee (or neither) -- if you have a family and a home you are in the business of having a life. I'm betting that none of you went into business to become hot at shuffling papers and reams of e-mail.

Eighty percent of the clutter at work and at home is a result of disorganization, not lack of space! So if it's going to keep coming in and piling up, you've got to have an exit strategy. Regular maintenance is the best way to keep your office tuned up, same as your vehicle.

The key 'success' habit is deciding immediately where each piece of paper or e-mail goes and what's the next action required from you. Setting anything aside in the 'decide later pile' just makes it worse. Every piece of clutter at work and at home is an unmade decision.

Use my Daily, Monthly and Yearly Maintenance tips to keep ahead of all that information --whether it's paper or computer. I guarantee you can manage your information more easily and successfully at work and at home when you do.

DAILY
Unlike some wines, no piece of information improves with age.
Set a certain time each day to sort, toss and refile both paper and e-mail. I do mine after lunch while I get through my post meal 'slump'. Daily maintenance, like brushing your teeth, keeps you from collecting build-up in your systems.

Sort all your incoming materials daily; stand over the recycle bins and get rid of all the junk first. Sort into Action categories that make sense to you: to pay, to file, to review, etc. The daily sort is crucial just to keep your filing separate from Action items, and keep the discards moving.

At home, your 'To File' first sort can be separated into personal and business filing (try a combination sorter:vertical for action/ horizontal for filing). At work, separate client or product materials from company administrative files in your first sort. More filing category help under Monthly tips.

Set up magazine files for Reference items (catalogs, magazines). At home, make separate sort places to put receipts that refer to warranties, personal property records, or that you need to reconcile with monthly credit card and bank statements.

Use a compartment, or envelope in your briefcase or purse where you can easily stuff any receipts (especially if you travel). Then, use it. In the office, have a drop box or action file for the day-to- day expensed receipts from your briefcase or pockets.


MONTHLY
Calendar definite times to do Maintenance and stick to them.
At home, try doing your paper filing only when you pay bills. As long as you schedule your maintenance every two weeks, you'll never miss a payment and you'll be up on your filing, too. In between bill paying time, simply do your daily sort: tossing, and putting bills, receipts, project materials in your Action area to be filed or paid when the time comes.

At work, try scheduling non-payday Fridays or before/after two different monthly meetings to keep it regular. Here are two suggestions on basic 'To File' systems you can use with your 'file piles' when you do your every day sort. No matter how you schedule it, you can cut your filing time in half by presorting your file piles into separate file trays in the following categories.

Pre-Sorted File Categories:

You can separate current business filing into three domains:
People; clients, staff, teams
Things; projects, programs, products
Administration; the business of doing business (financials, physical office).

You can separate current personal filing into three domains:
Personal/Family
Household
Finances/Insurance

My own file tray categories are; "Extraordinaire" (business), "Finances", "Eve" (personal) and "Clients". These are the same categories that match my four-drawer filing cabinet sections. So, even if I haven't done my filing for a while, if I need some info that has passed through recently -- I know where to look for it and so will you!


YEARLY

Universal Archiving Rule: If they aren't this year's files and you don't use them regularly -- get them out of your office!

I recommend that every private individual and small business do an Office Blitz in April after you've filed taxes. Pull all the old financial, insurance and tax-related files out, and put them in an archive box. Put in a back-up disk of your accounting program and data for that tax year.
Pick up a retention schedule from your CPA or the Internal Revenue Service.

I store my archives on shelves in the garage. Just remember to label the paper archive or waterproof plastic file boxes on the front, so you can keep a matching archive list in your file drawer with an index of box contents. Then, if you need something you can retrieve it easily.

For larger companies I recommend an Office Blitz at least twice a year. Plan a Friday afternoon where everyone participates in cleaning out their offices and cubicles. (Order extra dumpsters.) If the finance year runs July to June do your archiving blitz in end July for the prior year.

Archive administrative files, and completed project or program files. Toss records for which you have already been reimbursed, or which you no longer maintain as part of your job. Archive the rest to off-site storage after making an index.

Separate essential records into current or archive storage:
File in current year filing system (by category)
File into archival filing system (by past year)
OR Scan into electronic document storage (both)

Now, that you know how to manage your information more successfully at work and at home Peace of mind is just an Office Blitz plus Daily, Weekly and Monthly Maintenance away!

For more free time-saving tips, see http://www.organize.com" target="_blank">http://www.organize.com
Copyright 2005 Eve Abbott All Rights Reserved

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