As the year winds down, my husband and I are embarking on The Great Paperwork Filing Project of 2009. It’s such an undertaking it feels appropriate we give it an official name with capital letters. (Similar to The Big Move of 2004 and Project Remove Splinter from My Finger, which unfortunately is still ongoing.)
Most of the papers we’re dealing with right now are from our son’s adoption. We have about eight inches of documents that need to be scanned and destroyed or scanned and filed. It’s a relatively easy process, but, even with the help of the new Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500M we’re test driving from the manufacturer, it still takes awhile to review every sheet of paper to decide its fate.
We’re following the method I describe in the “Tuesday at Work: Fixing Your Files” section of Unclutter Your Life in One Week. If you’re also looking at a Great Paperwork Filing Project of 2009 or 2010, try the following method to get it under control:
- Determine what papers you have that need to be processed. If you don’t have a firm understanding of what work you need to do, you can’t create a plan for handling all of it.
- Determine what rules should define what to keep and what to purge. You’ll end up getting rid of too much or not enough if you don’t have firm guidelines in place before you begin.
- Determine how you will classify, categorize, and arrange your documents. You hope to one day be promoted/sell your company for millions/have someone help you with your work, so your system needs to make sense to you and others. Create a system that you can maintain and that can easily be explained to others when your big promotion comes in!
- Sort, scan, and file your documents. I recommend tackling an inch of paper at a time. As long as you have less than an inch of paper coming in a day, you’ll eventually make it through your stacks.
- Back up your digital system to protect from loss or damage. If it’s not backed up, you run the risk of losing everything when your hard drive fails. And, as we all know, there are two types of hard drives — those that have failed, and those that eventually will.
(The image associated with this post is from the FreedomFiler website. Check out our post on Paper file organization systems for more information about FreedomFiler. It’s a solid tab labeling system, especially for home-related papers.)