Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Colors and main categories for documents must be a match!

Colors and main categories for documents must be a match!

Are you a visual learner? Do you prefer to add color to your office environment, organize and file your documents by color coding?

As many of us still work with both paper and electronic documents, filing hard copy documents to match our electronic documents is a must. With the increase of documents entering our business world, keeping up is important.

Color coded made easy. Color coded label and file folders have a unique way of helping you to determine where the document should be filed, and helps you avoid misfiles. How frustrating is it to spend more than a few minutes trying to find a document! Calls are waiting, the meeting will be delayed, and/or your sales call will suffer. It is urgent that the document is in your reach within a reasonable amount of time.

How do you set this up?

Review your business categories and adjust any missing categories as you go over your files. Order as many coloured folders as you have main categories. For sub categories, you can use the same color file folder and add the category code on the folder.
Another method is to use a different hue within a main category. For instance, documents filed under the category for administration, you could use a blue and within that category, a lighter color of blue. Therefore, the main categories would have a stronger effect overall.

If you have the time, you can write the code for each document, especially those of major importance. Each time you print a copy from an electronic file, create a new document, or receive a document on your desk such as a contract, you can enter the code immediately. The match for all codes should be the same as all codes for electronic documents. It will improve your office efficiency tremendously.

Not only it is an eye catcher for you, it is an aid that is valuable in saving you and your staff time, space and money. Hidden or lost files are costly and can only create havoc over time with the overflow of documents crowding and lurking in the filing cabinet.

There are many providers of this type of goods and service, and they can assist you in helping you decide on how to plan this well.

Francine Renaud,
Records Management Consultant
Tel: 250-763-3988

Thursday, May 5, 2011

E-mail messages as business documents.

Did you ever consider assessing what type of documents are housed in your office files? What are the typical documents found in most of our offices? First of all, we have paper and electronic documents, and other formats such as DVD's, video training material, and others.

Do we consider e-mail to be a part of our business documents? We certainly must.

E-mail has skyrocketed in growth in the past few years, and companies rely on e-mail as a prime method of communication. Information is crucial to their success in business. They are as important as any other document, which make up records we work with on a daily basis.

E-mail attachments have value to your business operations and are created, distributed, and shared instantly without much thought about the long term effects of keeping the attachments, or coordinating them with your assigned categories in your filing system for quick access and retrieval.

This is a time to look at your system and do a simple review and do the exercise with your staff on how to handle e-mail and their attachments. Look at how you have filed your paper and electronic documents,and evaluate each e-mail attachment as you receive it.

Review your files and ask yourself if they are they still needed. Does the company have a policy for the retention periods, how long to keep important or crucial documents? Who keeps what? When there is a mass mail out to employees, who keeps the original message, or in fact, any other message with replies in the same department? Who keeps the record if it has a legal, fiscal, or historical value?

Many employees may not realize that each e-mail message created on their desktop belongs to the company. It is important to be enlightened by what can be requested as e-discovery in case of litigation. What is the content of the message and what is it conveying? Our messages should be written as if they world was reading them.

A simple e-mail message about any business activity, instructions, or discussions may be of importance to decision making, educational purposes, projects, ownership, or requests for e-discovery.

Once you have established that e-mail attachments have a certain value to the company, determine how and what can be kept, for how long, or deleted from anyone's desktop since this is becoming a major problem with the growth of electronic messages accumulating in everyone's mailbox.

Information Technology departments, in certain cases, may request that you limit what you keep and may send a message out to all concerned that there is a deadline for keeping messages in the deleted area, or the number of e-mails permitted in a mailbox. Are there any instructions as to where to keep any documents of importance as the employee should not rely on the e-mail inbox as a storage place.

Francine Renaud,
Document Management Consultant
http://www.timeouttoorganize.com/ Tel: 250-763-3988

Monday, April 25, 2011

Are your business activities and documents in sink with your time management skills?

Good intentions and habits are part of good management of business documents. Keeping in line with our timelines, working efficiently, reaching our goals, and problem solving are part of an effective plan.

For some, roadblocks may cause a postponement of the inevitable, actions required to stay on top of the situation. Procrastination is one area, which contributes to prolonging these roadblocks. Being sidetracked is another cause for concern. What does procrastination have in common with being sidetracked? Actually, they go hand in hand. If the task is not one you are content in doing, you will quickly be distracted with the other more interesting tasks.

If there is a task I dislike, or despise, it may get deferred or set aside for awhile. Eventually, I do get around to it. I have established a new rule to resolve this problem. I start with the boring tasks and get them done, in other words, get them over with. Don't we all have work that we just don’t want to deal with and wish we could have someone else to do the work for us? Is this only wishful thinking? Either way, these tasks need to be handled and done well, no matter.

What choices do we have? In fact, we have many.
Solutions to this problem can be about how we approach these tasks or handle them. I can set time limits to getting them done, book them into my calendar, and ensure that I follow through, without fail. Practice this often enough and you will not think about it as a drab chore, it will become a part of your work habits and part of the solution.
Unfortunately, that does not always work for everyone.

Another alternative can be to delegate these duties to an employee, or hire part time help. Both are acceptable solutions. Others may find the work interesting or they may be willing to help you out. Exchange tasks in the office, work this out and make it a "Win Win" situation. Find out how you can share your duties in the same department, and assist each other in areas which may be challenging or simply not of great interest to you. If you are the manager, inspire your team to take on their work with gusto, no matter the task, and offer a reward such as employee of the month or offer a gift card every once in awhile. If we consider that all facets of our jobs are important, our efforts will become valuable assets to the company.

Do we not tend to gravitate to what we like to do?

If you are disciplined, that does not mean you will not have a problem with procrastination. If over the years, you have allowed this habit to persist, it is time to make a change. Be in charge and don’t let it continue to interfere with the management of your business activities, no matter how small or less important these tasks are to you. Take charge of your goals from the bottom up.

Francine Renaud
Records Management Consultant
Tel: 250-763-3988

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Five important tips for scheduling and organizing documents for meetings.

1. Agenda
Use your planner, paper or electronic, properly. Enter all appointments in your calendar and arrange appointments by geographic area. Select a day that you can dedicate to meeting clients or a time period on a specific day(s) of the week, which is suited to ensuring that your goals are in line with your timelines. Respect the time period allotted for the meeting as they need to keep their agenda on schedule as well.

Organize your clients or in-house department files according to the time period set for the meeting, and by client or co-worker. Many tools are available to file paper documents in order of appointments, such as an accordion folder. If you choose to put your papers in a briefcase, enter all documents under client name or category by business function, in a coloured folder.

For online documents, prepare a one page reference sheet, which will list the client's or colleague's names, document's names, directories / category for filing, type of documents in any format, and accompanying material in paper format. Not all documents are electronic as we still work with hard copies.

3. Notes for each meeting
This is a good time to do additional brainstorming and who knows, maybe something new will come to light, or other factors will come into play. Review and adjust notes.

Prepare an agenda and itemize all points for discussion in the order you wish to present this in Word. Print this out for your meeting. It is less distracting if you work with a paper copy in front of your client or colleagues than doing this online. Foresee any problems or roadblocks you may encounter, and offer a range of possible solutions. Allow space for comments from the client or questions you need to resolve at a later date. You don’t want to forget to talk about important matters even when they are minute in detail or comments, suggestions, or additional questions your client may have. Have you ever come back from a meeting and forgot to mention something important and have to make that extra phone call? If your schedule is very busy, it is easy to forget no matter how good the memory is.

Prior to meeting, reserve time to work or review documents needed for those meetings. Send a short e-mail message or pick-up the phone to confirm the appointment.

After the meeting, make a list of all items needed to complete the work resulting from the meeting. Enter the time allotted for work in your calendar.

4. Follow-up
Once your work is completed, call or email the client and review or add information to discuss and/or report about. Is it not a welcomed call when you know the service offered is considerate of your time, needs, and of your concerns. This short phone call or email will be valuable time spent for you and your client. This is a good time to make the arrangement for further meetings, if deemed necessary. It is important to allow the client to speak about any pending issues or problems, which were not resolved, or need more attention. Listen carefully, mirror what you hear, and suggest any new ideas, or tell them you will be working on it A.S.A. P. This is valuable feedback and information, and your clients will recognize that you are interested in providing excellent service.

5. Adjust
This is a good time to look at how you prepare yourself for meetings and appointments. Do you come in to the meeting feeling confident? Were you able to present or find all related documents for the meeting? Did you accomplish all that was needed to have a successful meeting? This will come through and your clients and colleagues will no doubt value the effort and time you put into your work and/or presentation.

Francine Renaud
Records Management Consultant
Tel: 250-763-3988

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Time Management: part 1 of 4

Time management: all those tasks and corresponding documents awaiting your attention.

Is this still a challenge for most of us? With all that stuff hitting us left and right in the office environment, we need to assess and reassess our processes. With our extended world today, it is even more imposing and it becomes a daily struggle to keep on top of all those electronic messages and workload.

"Time is of the essence" is a popular saying that says it all. In business, clients, time management, and efficiency are synonymous with success. If too much time is spent with processes, email management, and finding documents, you will need to assess and define your priorities, your goals, and what needs to be done at the end of each day.

Create a spreadsheet and start a survey for the period of one week and log the time it took to find documents and all related material, make phones calls, attend weekly and monthly meetings, and work associated with preparation and post meeting work, all visits with clients, and in marketing.

Begin with listing each major category and log your tasks under each category.

Make a list of tasks for the week and prioritize. Include time for email responses, report writing, drafts and revisions, phone calls, meetings, accounting, and other activities for the week.

Online and manual agendas and calendars:
Use your paper based or electronic calendar. Write your time schedule for the week. Allow room for extra interruptions, and they do occur.

Minimal time period:
Start dealing with tasks that require little time. Get them out of the way. Don't procrastinate with tasks you don't like to do, do them with the same intensity as you would other tasks,and it will soon become a new habit. Tasks ,which do not demand a great deal of effort or thought, can be taken care of quickly and dealt with early in the day. The pile will diminish quickly.

Response to emails that can be handled easily and do not need a lot of your time and attention due to the nature of the message, can be put on the top of the list. The list of emails will shrink considerably since we do get a lot of transitory messages. Phone calls that require you attention can be dealt with immediately.

Maximum time:
Important new and ongoing projects, conference calls, out of town meetings, ongoing activities, which require more than one hour, must be well estimated.

Log the maximum time you think it would require to write a report that day, work with your colleagues on a revised document, attend a meeting, etc. Prioritize and follow simple good practices and the stress and piles will look much better by mid morning.

Francine Renaud
Records Management Consultant
Tel: 250-763-3988

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Multi-tasking: are there too many tasks and documents to be handled in a day?

Does it really work to your advantage?

Dependent on your business, if you are a small firm, you are no doubt faced with working on varied tasks during the day or at the same time, and you must wear many hats. Document management is of upmost importance to your everyday activities such as decision making, workflow processes, and dealing with clients.

What is multi-tasking about anyways? One main consideration is how our brain functions while we are doing more than one task at one time, and how well we do both tasks.

The definition of multi-tasking according to Oxford's Canadian Dictionary of Current English is the execution of a number of tasks at once.

Is that truly possible? In some circumstances, it is, however, at other times, it does not apply. Assess the results to determine how well you have done both jobs. What is the concentration level spent on both tasks? Which task gets the most attention? It is possible to write an important report and talk on the phone at the same time? Is it possible to file paper documents and visualize your next vendor's event? Did a comment distract you and cause you to shift gears? If I am writing an important report for year end, can I also prepare for my next meeting on another matter?

The main concern is about how well we perform while multi-tasking. Am I giving you all of my attention while talking on the phone and writing an important report? Am I risking misfiling a document while planning my next event? Do I risk deleting a document for lack of proper attention to the task? Have you ever been distracted while doing this and you don’t remember what you did with the file, it actually evades you.

What is the ratio of your attention span for each task when multi-tasking? Is it between 80/20 or 60/40? If I am talking on the phone while trying to complete an important task, I find myself getting wrapped up more in the task at hand than in the conversation. Something or someone gets lost in the process.

As an example of multi-tasking in regards to texting and driving, neuroscience has determined that the brain can't pay attention to both tasks. Dr. Oz's television program talked about the impact of doing two things at one time while driving and the article on deadly driving and texting reveals the following information.

"The same part of the brain that you use when you send a text message is the same part of the brain that you need for driving. The prefunctal cortex portion of your brain is used for multi-tasking; if you overload this part of brain,like driving and texting, it has problems functioning correctly. Another part of your brain helps you with spacial orientation, and this portion of your brain is hard to keep intact when you are texting and driving."

Francine Renaud
Records Management Consultant
Tel: 250-763-3988

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Five easy tips on how to keep track of documents in a day of the busy entrepreneur.

1. Classification System/filing system
Do you have a good filing system? Is it set up to assist you in working with daily business activities, for paper and /or electronic documents?

Organization of a filing system/ folders, either for paper or electronic documents, will no doubt relieve you of the constant burden of time and effort spent trying to find those documents.

Start the day with good workflow processes or simple habits, they will help you stay on track. Clear the way and simplify. Remove documents from the desk top, which are no longer needed for the business activities of that day, and file them immediately.

If the volume of paper documents is overwhelming, it may be time to convert to an automated system.

2. Email overflow
Working with distractions from incoming email can cause us to become overwhelmed with all that is on hand to do. First thing, read and decide what needs to be taken care of right away. Prioritize, answer important emails, store yesterday's emails with their attachments, and set aside time for work to be done associated with email or attachments. Flag it and review during the day. Delete unneeded. Close your email and start the day.

3. Projects
Prioritize and determine each phase of the project by steps and allocate time for work and/or discussions during the day, revise changes to the document, ensure that you have an audit trail and assess your progress.

Plan for tomorrow. Gather any documents from the desk top and file in a folder in your basket identified as important or select coloured folders, red for urgent, yellow for meeting etc. If working online, add to your electronic calendar as a task. Make notes on what is a priority for tomorrow and what needs to be done. Don’t rely on your memory.

4. Meetings
Start by planning the meeting at a time that works well for you according to your agenda and the tasks at hand for that day. Adjust your schedule, if necessary. Send an invitation and include time, place and agenda for same day meeting.

Allocate a time period for the last minute details or additional prep time early in the day. Close your email and concentrate. Review prior to meeting, make notes on any foreseen challenges and bring forth solutions.

Come prepared. Gather all related documents and place in a folder identified for that particular meeting. Open your email and find out if there are any changes, absences, or other important matter to be dealt with prior to the meeting. Be aware and prepared for any changes. Bring the agenda.

Pack the laptop if you need to refer to emails, their attachments, or other documents during the meeting. If you are leading the meeting or training others in the process, have a hard copy for each attendee or have them refer to the document online, if provided at the meeting. Have hard copies identified as a meeting copy and avoid confusion about any further revised editions for future meetings, if working with a draft copy. Stamp it and add today's date and ensure that a revision number is identified. If working with a final copy, which is the official record of that document, stamp COPY on the handout of that document or prefer to have it displayed online with proper permissions in place for the attendees.

5. Bringing forward at the end of the day
What needs to happen tomorrow? Take time out at the end of the day to go over any outstanding issues dealing with documents, email and their attachments, and projects.

Prepare a list of important tasks to do first thing in the morning. Simple reminders in your desk top calendar or your electronic calendar will help you plan for tomorrow. Don’t rely on your memory especially if you have a busy schedule. If the system is down, you can refer to important details written in your desk top calendar.

Francine Renaud
Records Management Consultant
Tel: 250-763-3988

Kelowna Time Out to Organize