Author: Megan Spears, Disorder2Order LLC
Paper is one of the most frustrating things to organize; it accumulates fast and can be easily lost. It also takes energy and time to read through a document and decide where it goes. It’s easy to see why we procrastinate dealing with paper piles. We spend a lot of time searching, sifting, sorting, filing, and churning all that paper. It’s exhausting!
As tax deadlines approach, a reminder will arrive (often coming in the form of a document in the mail from your accountant or the federal government), to get your records organized. This is the perfect time of year to finally set up a system to manage your records: when your taxes are on your mind!
Set yourself up for long-term success next year by creating a filing system while you are sorting through records and preparing your taxes this year. This filing system will work for you, instead of against you! Here are five steps you can take to get your paperwork organized.
1. Use Last Year’s Taxes as a Guide
A massive amount of paper lying around is somehow related to filing taxes, so it’s good to start there. Use your previous year’s tax records as a checklist to help you create file categories.
You can create a series of folders (paper or digital) with each category listed. As records come in, simply file them right into the folder.
If you have a record that you don’t need for tax purposes, ask yourself why you’re keeping it. Speaking of that…
2. As you Organize your Paper, Always Ask Yourself This Question
“If I can get this information somewhere else, do I need to keep it?”
This is a critical question you should always ask yourself when trying to decide if a paper record is worth keeping.
For example, if your bank has copies of all your records accessible to you online, do you really need to keep the paper copy of your statement?
Remember, if you have access to that record, is it worth keeping it? Perhaps the answer is yes! If that’s the case, then you’ve answered your question and it makes sense to file that record. If not, perhaps it’s OK to let that go. You can also check directly with your bookkeeper or CPA to find out.
3. Set up a Command Center
A command center can help you organize your most important documents in one place. Usually, they have separate compartments to keep documents or folders organized and at your fingertips.
You can set up your command center in your office or kitchen, but ideally, wherever you process your mail is the best spot. Pick something that works for you.
For the best search results, google desktop file organizer.
Photo credit: The Container Store: Like-It Large Desktop Station
4. Recycle immediately!
Having a recycling bin near or close to you while you process paperwork can make all the difference when staying on top of managing your paper piles.
You can easily toss envelopes, inserts, or junk mail immediately. Allowing less time processing and more time on records that need your focused attention.
5. Make Time to Process and Manage Paper
If you want something to get done, you must make the time to do it! Managing paper is no exception. Set yourself up for success and start small: 15, 20, or 30 minutes at a time is perfect.
Use that time to ONLY deal with your paper piles. Don’t pick up your phone or read your email - just sort paper. Sort your records into your designated categories, then file or decide you don’t need it, and then recycle.
Even though the IRS is moving slowly this year, it doesn’t mean you should. Having a system in place to manage your paper means less time stressing and more time doing things that you love.
Author: Megan Spears
CPO® Disorder2Order, LLC