“How To” Maintain Paperwork in Your Home Office

There are many reasons why we choose to go into business for ourselves.  It may be that we have a very unique opportunity and talent to offer the world.  It may be that we are a much better boss than employee or that we enjoy the commute – a short walk to your office vs. hours on the road to sit in traffic. 

Whatever the reason that you have decided to be a business owner, it will usually mean that until you can bring on staff to help handle with office work, you will be in charge of everything.  You will handle your own networking, marketing, office work, paperwork and “do” the business.   Working from a home office is difficult.  How do you determine when and where to spend your time without feeling like a hamster on a wheel and working 80+ hours a week?  Paperwork is a part of our business that can easily be put on hold AND can also become a major source of stress and anxiety.  You can easily find yourself spending more time “looking” for your paperwork instead of “handling” the paperwork.  So here are some easy tips to help you keep up with daily paperwork that comes into your home office.

First – Pick up the mail and eliminate the junk.  Consumers receive an estimated 41 pounds of junk mail every year. Check out  www.41pounds.org.  This site helps eliminate 80-95% of all junk mail received.  This will save you a ton of time each week.   

Second – Open up all of the mail and eliminate again.  Shred everything that has your personal information on it.  Protect yourself from identity theft.

Third – Place the rest of the mail (which probably is not a lot at this point), into your filing system.  I work from a portable system that allows me to easily place everything.  If it is something that needs action immediately, I place it into my “To Do” hanging folder in a file name “Hot Action” because it requires me to respond in 24-48 hours.  If it is something that needs to have a response but isn’t urgent, it will go into my Warm Action folder (under To Do).  The idea is that it has a home that is not on my desk top! 

My “Hot Action” folder is touched every day.  This is where I will go first thing in the morning in order to find out what is important for that day.  These items need to be handled immediately.  Every few days I touch my “Warm Action” folder and determine what needs to happen with those papers.  This is where I would put a bill that is due in 3 weeks or an event that I need to respond to.  Things that require action, but not immediate action.  This file is looked at every 2-3 days.  As items become more urgent, they are moved into the “Hot Action” folder to be handled. 

Fourth – Everything else gets a home in my portable system as well.  Some of the folders that I have in my box are:

To File

2011 Taxes

To Be Entered – into quickbooks (this is receipts and deposits, etc. that need to be entered)

As a business owner, it is important that paperwork doesn’t get out of control.  As with everything in life, we have to develop a habit of dealing with it daily.  Avoidance will not make it easier to handle.  As the stacks become higher and higher we will experience more and more anxiety about opening the mail.  It can also cause you to miss deadlines, miss appointments and opportunities.

The most important factor in maintenance of paperwork in your home office is that it affects your mental attitude toward your business.  You will immediately feel stress and anxiety and can even begin to avoid the office all together.  Guess what…it won’t take care of itself.  Like everything in life, the elimination of paper clutter required us to take action.  If your office is defined by paperwork piled high and deep everywhere, take action now.  Hire a professional organizer to help you get it organized, filed and under control so that you can get back to work. 

Linda Clevenger

Organization Direct