Do You Respect Your Papers?

photo from 2012 © akiyoko

I have seen:

  • a design-conscious client who felt that all her files MUST fit into a small rattan box under her table, like she’d seen in magazines.
  • a home-based business that tried to get by with a decrepit metal file cabinet that was hard to open, harder to squeeze in another sheet of paper.
  • a multi-million dollar company that, in building its own headquarters, neglected to make enough space for the files needed to hold the paper that is the life-blood of its paper-intensive business.

It ‘s a fine thing to minimize the paper in our lives to the greatest extent possible. It is not so good to attempt to defy the laws of physics by storing 10 pounds of sugar in a five-pound bag.

Sure, the papers that pile up can be annoying, but let’s be serious: we need some information on paper to run those businesses that support us. When a legal or tax challenge arises, only your papers can help you. Are you dissing your documents? Time to show your papers the respect they deserve.

  • ¬†Make sure you have enough file space for the volume of paper your business needs. Measure how many feet of file space your papers require, then add 20 percent or more for growth.
  • Don’t put up with daily irritations: your file drawers should open easily, and there should always be enough room to add or search for papers easily. If you’re working with a cantankerous old file cabinet, well, don’t! Replace it now.
  • Set up a file system that includes homes for all the types of papers you regularly need.
  • Make your papers easier to put away than they are to find. (It’s the toy box principle – you will search for three minutes to find what you want, but it should take less than a minute to put it away. Otherwise, the job won’t get done.)
  • When you’ve set up a file system, make a file index and keep it up to date with any changes. This helps you to remember what you’ve done and makes it easier for assistants and colleagues to maintain the system.

When you need information in a pinch, your paper can be your friend. Just be sure to show it the respect it deserves.

Uncertain about what to keep and for how long? Look at my free record retention guide. (Scroll down to “How long should I keep this paper?”)




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