Concrete Steps to Reduce Office Clutter and Go Almost Paperless

Guest post by Kerry Thomas, Owner, Conquer the Chaos, LLC

file clean out.pngResearch shows that 80 percent of what we keep we never use. While businesses struggle to reduce costs and increase productivity, information continues to increase more rapidly than ever before. Ask 100 people, “If you had time, are there files in your office or on your computer you could comfortably toss?”, 99 of them will answer, “Yes,” but who starts the work day and says “Well, I don’t have anything better to do today. I think I’ll clean out the files!”

Although the computer was touted as the solution to the problem of managing information, it has often increased our ability to create a mess! When a business first switches from paper to electronic files, it seems like a streamlined solution — but as the number of electronic files increase, the ability to find them decreases — just as it did with paper files.  The problem has not gone away — it just changed formats!

Now most businesses face two problems:

1) How do you eliminate the existing unnecessary information

2) How can you prevent the problem from happening again?

Fortunately, solving the first problem is a major step in solving the second. The first step is to design and execute an office clean-out day where time is dedicated to systematically go through the office identifying files, supplies and equipment, which no longer support the goals of the business. Once the paper files are cleaned, the process is repeated with email and digital files. Trust me: carving out a day (or half a day) to do this will save more time in the future!

The solution to the second problem — managing information effectively to find what you need when you need it – is summarized by answering seven questions:

  1. What information do we need to keep?
  2. In what form? (Paper or electronic?)
  3. For how long?
  4. Who is responsible for filing it?
  5. Who needs access to it? (Permissions)
  6. How can they find it? (Naming conventions)
  7. How is it backed up? (The only thing between you and a disaster is time!)

Based on research, companies who implement these strategies can free an hour or two per day of employee’s time, and reduce paper usage by 20-80% (worth 15 cents/sheet of paper saved). While few businesses are prepared to go to “paperless,” moving toward an “almost paperless” environment will dramatically and quickly reduce costs and stress, increase productivity, and improve environmental responsibility.