Here are a couple of quick organizing tips that will help you this tax year and then appreciate them even more next year…..
Flag your files, find it fast. One of the easiest ways to get started is probably sitting right in your home office to review your records. We’re referring to your tax records from last year! Unless you’ve had significant changes over the year (such as a new baby, investments or home), your past records can provide a good start on what information you’ll need to gather this year. As you review your files, flag items and the files so you can locate them quickly next year. Consider using Avery NoteTabs for this purpose - if things change, you can remove them from the file or item easily and reuse them and they are color coded if you want to categorize your tax information.
Spend less time looking for loose receipts. Americans spend nine million hours a day looking for lost or misplaced items, according to the American Demographics Society. Develop a system to organize your receipts now and then use it for next year. There are a variety of options but I love to use the Avery PocketTabs™. Use the convenient pocket to store receipts for all your deductible expenses you collect throughout the year. The removable, repositionable pocket can be attached easily inside your file folders, and has a closeable flap to keep your contents secure. You could also create a tax receipt binder and attach the pocket tabs to card stock in the binder. Take it one step further, categorize each pocket tab – gas, meals, parking, medical, donations…etc. You can find out more about these products by visiting your office supply retailer such as Staples or visiting www.avery.ca or www.avery.com.
If you need help getting organized for tax time, send us an email at email@example.com.
Are you tired of looking for items you need? Starting today, begin asking yourself “Where will I find this?” instead of “Where shall I put this? This question works great for papers to be filed as well as for other items in the home or office. Words of wisdom from Marlo Nikkila that I totally agree with and have always put in practice for my clients to create their own unique organizational systems based on the way they think, not on the way I think!
Overwhelmed with the paper on your desk – perhaps all those “to do’s”? Have your New Year’s resolutions not delivered on their promises? I know not all mine did! If paper does not have a home to go to then it will create its own – a “Pile”! Even paper that just needs to be filed is a “To Do”. Our “BOS” (Business Organizational Solutions) approach recommends setting up a standard set of “to do” or “action” files based on your own unique business activities. If you are a piler, place these files in a visible place such as a desk top filing rack (so it is in plain view and you won’t forget about it) or if you are a “filer” then tuck them away in hanging folders in a desk drawer that is easy to access. Some of the action files you could choose to set up for your own system might be: File; Pay; Read; Research; Plan; Errand; Write; Input; Review or Call. Now, file away all those loose “to do” papers and feel confident that you will know where to find them when you need them. You can also use these categories to set up your electronic “To Do” or task list in Outlook so you are consistent with your approach across both paper and electronic documents. If you need a reminder to look at your “To Do’s” set up a reoccurring event in your Outlook calendar. Send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to know more about “BOS” and how you can conquer the piles.
While you put away the last few remnants from the holidays, remembering time with your family and friends with a smile on your face or perhaps a sense of relief that it is all over, you turn your mind to what’s next. Yikes….dealing with all of the paper, email and voicemail that have accumulated at work over the holidays. Overwhelm kicks in and the re-energizing you did over the holidays is draining away. Don’t despair, it can’t all be done in a day and if you try to do everything all at once you will get even more overwhelmed and end up not doing anything well.
Take a few minutes, a couple of deep breathes, and develop your “Fresh Start” plan. Identify what it is you need to deal with to get back on top of things. There are probably four categories – voicemail, email, paper and projects. Decide which category is the most important as not everything can be a priority one! Start working through each category systematically until you have dealt with all the high priority items in each group, then circle back and start the process again until you have caught up in each area.
As you work through all the items, you may not be able to do them right then and there. So you don’t get bogged down, and lose your momentum, set up a reminder so that you can forget about that item until the appropriate time and then immediately move on to the next item. There are three reminder systems that you could use. Choose the one that works best with your behaviour style:
- Task it in Outlook or other similar software. Don’t forget the reminder date and time, so you can forget about it until you need to deal with it. This option is great because you can drag and drop emails into tasks in seconds;
- Create a Pending folder (electronic or paper) and drop the paper or email into the folder. Don’t forget to revisit that Pending folder first thing each morning or at the end of each day to make sure you stay on top of your pending items;
- Create a “To Do List” either electronic or hard copy. This is my least favourite as “To Do” lists have to be re-written to keep them current. Consider moving to the electronic option referred to in 1. above.
Watch for more blog posts for more ideas on a “Fresh Start” for the New Year. We will be talking about managing email, setting up paper task files, procrastination and more. Interested in one on one or group training in email and/or paper management or managing effective meetings, contact me at email@example.com for more information about our in-person or on-line services. Happy New Year!
In attempt to try and reduce the number of emails in your inbox and perhaps others, try following a few of these quidelines:
Don’t break the thread - When creating messages, be sure to include meaningful data in the subject line. Be precise, yet informative, as to the nature of your message. This then means that you only need to save the most recent email in the series and delete the rest.
Reply All Button - Before using the Reply All button, ask yourself “Does everyone really need to see this e-mail?” When replying to e-mail messages that have been sent to large groups, it may be more appropriate to reply only to the author and let them disseminate this information to the entire group, if necessary.
Most important information first - Messages should be concise and to the point leading with the most important information. Some people only briefly scan the first few paragraphs of their messages and your request could get missed or deleted. Tell the recipient early on what you need them to do.
Visit www.productivitysquared.com or contact us firstname.lastname@example.org to learn about our services and in particular our training programs for managing email, organizing electronic documents as well as records management.
When discussing Records Management, many people think of coloured file folders in some type of alphabetical or numeric arrangement within one or more file cabinets. The impression is that if it looks organized it must be. However, we are not dealing with mere pieces of paper; we are concerned with what is critical business information, the effective and efficient organization of which contributes greatly to the success or failure of the company/organization.
Developing, implementing and maintaining an effective Records management program involves many aspects; the two key ones are a uniform method of organizing information throughout the company (file classification) and determining how long records are to be retained (retention schedules). We also face a new challenge, ubiquitous emails that never stop.