Seven Tips for Organizing Paperwork in the Office

Got so much paperwork you do not know what to do with it all.  Should you file it or trash it?  Or should someone other than you need to see it. 

3 Tips for Documents and Reports
Determine what is important to you and what is not when it comes to various documents and report you may receive.
1.      When you are reading a document or report, highlight important data to remember.  Write comments or actions to do in margins.  If it needs to go to someone else, put it in a referral folder with that person’s name on it for future discussion or routing to them. 
2.      If you are on a distribution for a report or document that is not necessary to the work needs, get off the distribution list.  If the report should go to someone else, have the name on the distribution list changed to them if they are not already on the list.  
3.      If you want information from a document or report that is long, ask for a summary or graph instead of the entire report.  Well-written documents should summarize their purpose in the first few and last few paragraphs  If the document is broken into sections, review only the sections that relate to personal work or required approvals.  If a summary is not available, create one of you own  as a cover to the report or document before you file it for future reference.  This will save you time looking back through it later.

4 Tips for Fill-in-the-blank Forms, Letters, and Checklists
Whenever possible, use preprinted forms, letters, and checklists to save time.  
1.      If the forms are on the computer, even more time savings may occur if they can be quickly updated by filing in the blanks on the computer.  Then print or email the completed forms to get them where they need to go.  Only distribute copies of your completed forms to those that really have a need for the data or who are approval requirements, in other words make the distribution list as small as possible.  Wherever possible, eliminate multiple signature approvals.  Reduced distribution and routing saves cost of paper, time to implementation, and saves personal time for those that do not need to see the information.
2.      Have standard form letters for most your business needs and replies.  These can be created on the computer with markers where inserting of specific text for letters.  If using a computer application for contact lists and address, find out if the word-processing software will interface with the contact software to create mail merged letters or labels for mass mailing to save cut-and-paste or re-typing time.  You can also use the application to create your own return labels.  Or you may choose to pre-print return address labels at an office supply store or order them online to save even more time when sending out mail.
3.      If you do not have electronic forms or standard letter templates, create template forms and letters for future use.  Be sure to take any unnecessary or repetitive data off forms and checklists to make them more useful.  Forms that require too much time to fill out will not be useful.  When developing forms and letters, be sure the most important or required data is on the top for quick checks.  Less important data should be on the bottom of the form and medium priority data in the middle.  Whenever possible, try to reduce forms and letters to one piece of paper.  Others who must use or review your form and more likely to do so if it is short and achieves the need with little input or confusion. 

4.      You can also save time using checklists for repetitive work or standardize projects to eliminate forgetting steps.  If you do not have checklist, start creating them the next time you have to do the work so they are ready in the future.  Just as with letters and forms

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