A new season has begun, and you’ve been tasked with figuring out how to deal with the colossus of paper generated in the past year. To you it’s just a limp beast, its arms and legs scattered in random places throughout the office. It’s not productive on its own, and even though you can’t eliminate all of it, you know that very few times will any of it need to be recalled.

Last year you were able to consolidate most of it by using up some of the remaining storage bins and file cabinets, but those are packed so tightly now that you and your colleagues are starting to get annoyed when it’s time to pull a file. So what do you do? Try one or more of these five methods to purge the piles!

  1. Enact Your Document Retention Policies.Yes, you’re technically following all the rules by holding on to those accounting documents that are fifteen years old, but do you really need them? Check with applicable regulations at local, regional, and federal levels to make sure you comply, and then get rid of the excess! If you don’t have retention policies, it’s never too late to build them. The biggest benefit of having them is when you arrive at this time next year. You will have already developed the plan to make room for the newer documents! Retention policies can also be a part of a complete management system (more on that in a bit).
  2. Convert Paper to PDFs In-house. You can fit millions of pages on a single computer-storage array consuming about a cubic foot or less in your office. All you need is a document scanner and some document feeders (the people kind) to help digitize the piles. You should classify the types of documents you will scan by one or two levels; for example, Accounts Receivable: Invoice. These classifications can help structure the location and naming of the resulting PDF files. They can also create the foundation for a database used to search and retrieve these documents in an archiving system.
  3. Implement a Document Management System. For maximum efficiency, consider implementing document management software, which can tie the scanning process together with retention policies and daily workflow. While this may seem out of reach or too advanced for your immediate needs, most document management systems and implementation plans are custom built for you. You might end up needing to use only a few of the features that are available, making a seemingly complex package a much more affordable and realistic solution for your organization. In addition, most document management systems include built-in scanning components as well as import tools for scans coming from other sources.
  4. Let Imaging Professionals Convert Your Archive. If scanning documents in-house isn’t attractive, there are document imaging services in your area and abroad that can do it for you! Most of these companies can provide you with a free estimate after making a few quick calculations based on page sizes, styles, and the dimensions of your current storage containers.
  5. Shred, Shred, Shred! When spring cleaning is the name of the game, the trash needs to be taken out. It may seem more work than it’s worth to filter out the unnecessary pages lying around the office, but you might find that an uncluttered and organized office space leads to higher productivity and happier colleagues. When your business-critical documentation is safely secured, and backed up if digital, the rest should be moved off-site and out-of-sight! There are numerous mobile shredding services that can do all the heavy lifting and shredding. You can find one in your area by performing a quick search on the Web.

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