Would you believe that we waste over 100 hours a year searching for documents that we can’t find? That may not seem much, but when you translate that in to your financial worth it becomes a significant figure. Take your hourly rate and times it by 100… can you afford to waste that kind of money?
If you run your business on your own, you might not think you need to worry about your document processes. However, if you are planning to grow your business in the future, it’s good to get your processes in place as early as possible, especially as growth means you may need to share your documents with another person, whether that’s an associate, accountant, employee or assistant. There are two key things you’ll need to consider if you get to that stage.
Firstly, do you want to be spending time explaining a complicated filing system to a new employee? Or would you prefer them to be able to see what you have in place and easily understand it?
Secondly, you need to consider the security of your information and ensuring that sensitive information is filed separately from day to day information so that you don’t inadvertently share it with the wrong person.
I have two very simple tips that you can use to make your document processes a little more efficient.
Tip 1 – File or Folder Structure
The way you structure your filing, whether paper or electronic, will determine how quickly you can find your documents. The more complicated it is the less intuitive it will be to find what you want. The simplest way is to think about how you work and identify you key areas of business. So for us at Virtual Angels that will be clients, finance, marketing, social media and website and legal information. These are the folders we use day to day, week to week. By identifying your key areas of business you have identified your top level of filing, whether this is a lever arch file per area, a filing cabinet drawer per area or your top level of folders on the computer.
From here, you can decide on how you will divide those areas up. I would recommend you don’t have any more than two or three levels of filing otherwise you will have too much to look through to find what you need.
So, take the clients folder as an example – you might want to divide this up by client name and then you may want one more additional level of folders, e.g. letters, contracts, meeting notes, etc. The key is to keep it simple!
Tip 2 – File Naming
I can actually get incredibly geeky about file naming conventions, but I’ll resist the urge and keep it straight forward for you. As with your folder structure the key is to keep it simple!
Firstly keep your file naming consistent. Take the client folder as an example: choose either to use client surnames or company names, try not to use a mix of both.
When you look at your folders or documents, you want to be able to identify exactly what they are. Don’t fall foul of Microsoft’s default “Document 1”, “Document 2”, etc! Describe in short form exactly what the folder or document is. For example, you are writing a letter to your client John Smith about a change in fees: “Feb 2016 Letter to John Smith Fee Increase”
That’s it – you can quickly and easily use these tips to make your document processes more efficient and take back your time!
1 Figure based on a IDC survey commissioned by Adobe in 2012.