In our busy lives, it can sometimes be difficult to stay on top of organizing the items in our homes. It is especially difficult to stay on top of all the mail that we receive. Bills, financial documents, and other important mail are mixed in with stacks of unwanted junk-mail. After a long day at work, sorting through the mail and filing important papers into the correct folders in the filing cabinet may seem like a daunting task. The papers that keep piling up day after day soon transform into large piles which never seem to get checked off of our To-do lists. But what could be lurking in the bottom of that pile? Sure, you probably have most of your bills on auto-pilot through online bill payments and auto-drafting from your checking account, but have you forgotten any infrequent and irregular invoices or bills that might need to be paid?
Twenty-three percent of adults admit to paying bills late, and thus incurring fees, due to lost bills [National Association of Professional Organizers]. Those piles of unsorted mail and other documents could be costing you more than you think. Late payment penalties and interest charges can add up to considerable amounts of wasted money. Here are some tips to keep your office organized and efficient so you can avoid being another cluttered statistic:
Paper management: The lifecycle of paper management involves sorting, processing, scanning, filing, purging, shredding, and recycling. Mail should be sorted over your file cabinet, recycle bin, and shredder each day as you return from the mailbox. Keep a file for bills and documents that must be addressed timely and arrange them by due date. File all other documents in their respective folders as soon as you open them. Scan any documents when the original is not needed and store them on a hard drive. Be sure to ask your accountant how long you must hold onto important financial documents.
Storage: At the beginning of each year, archive all of the previous year’s files in a neatly labeled file box. Use different colored file folders for each year so it is easy to distinguish in which year each document was received. Make sure to buy file boxes that have sturdy lids and sides so they stack neatly. Label the front of each file box in large legible print to facilitate file retrieval.
Space design: The size of your home office plays an important part in how you can effectively work in the space. If your office is small then you will need to store more of your supplies to keep the usable surfaces free. It may be helpful to purchase a desk with a hutch and some built-in storage. The hutch takes advantage of unused vertical space, and drawers and filing cabinets in the desk will allow you to neatly organize your paper and office supplies. It is also important to consider the distance between your seat and the items in your office. Items you use frequently, such as the printer and stapler, should be placed closer to you, while items used infrequently, such as the hole puncher and fax, should be placed further away. This method will keep the items you use most within reach.
After implementing these simple organizing techniques you will be able to work more efficiently and effectively in your office space. These methods will allow you to keep track of your bills and invoices so none of them slip through the cracks and end up costing you unnecessary fees.