When I started my clerical life as an Office Junior at the “advanced” age of 19, I was amazed at the amount of paperwork that was produced by a medium sized business… and at how much of that paperwork was now my responsibility to file. Yep, there it was, that dirty, four letter F-word! FILE. Nobody I knew really said the word, they all seemed to spit it. No wonder they were looking for an administrative virgin to do all this filing if it was that awful to even say it!

But do you know what I found? Systems. Filing systems. And good ones (not that I was experienced, but they definitely worked). It made the job easy, enjoyable even. There was a place for everything, and everything ended up in its place.

In your business, is FILE a dirty, four letter F-word? It really doesn’t need to be. You just need a few simple systems in place, a little bit of discipline or a Virtual Assistant and you’ll make your own life and that of your book keeper and accountant so much easier.

There are a number of ways to set up a filing system, but by far the easiest and most popular is alphabetically by category, and then chronologically within. To do this, you can use a simple concertina file if you don’t have a lot of papers, you can use an archive box with hanging files, an upright filing cabinet with hanging files or anything else that fits within your office space and is within easy reach. This last part is important, because if your filing system is not within easy reach, you will not use it.

If you have lots of files, it needs to be easy to add new files to your system, and always ensure that the tools for adding the files (file folders, labels, tabs etc.) are also kept close to hand.

For your Accounting Files, you’ll need duplicate filing systems, one for Accounts Payable and one for Accounts Receivable. A great and easy way to distinguish between the two is to use colour coding. You can use any colours you like, but make sure you’re very aware which is which – and label them! If you choose colours like yellow and green, you can even match your invoicing, receipting and reporting onto yellow and green paper through your printer, so you’ll know at a glance what you’re looking at.

The last part of course is discipline. Don’t put your papers on your desk, or in a tray to put away later, put them away now. If you really, really can’t do it now, make an appointment with yourself for some time each day, or each week, depending on your business, to make time for filing – and keep that appointment. Each time you have something to be filed, file it.

If you follow these easy steps, you’ll see that filing won’t build up to become a dirty four letter F-word. And you can let it be filed and forgotten.

Nicole Graham | Business Mentor, Strategist | Hong Kong

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