File Right

How to junk, file, and organise paperwork

No matter how hard you try to go paperless, there always seems to be a pile of paper steadily gaining ground on your table every single day. But have no fear, fellow entrepreneurs – instead of side-eyeing the pile or pushing it to a less conspicuous corner of the office, here’s how you can actually tackle the paper trail mess and keep it all organised.

Find a system that works for you
The thing about organisational systems is that it isn’t one-size-fits-all. Some prefer filing by client. Others prefer filing by date. Often what you choose is dependent on your line of work, so think about the main documents you have when you’re filing and organise with easy retrieval in mind. Use a clear and simple hierarchical system, and avoid creating folders that are too specific as this often makes locating files difficult.

Go paperless
You’ve heard this before – electronic filing is how the organised like to preach. The thing about electronic filing, though, is that it requires dedication and a lot of time upfront, especially if you have years of paperwork you’re sitting on. If you’re new to small business paperwork – great! Here are a few quick tips:

• Back it up: we recommend backing up your computer weekly to make sure you don’t lose your information
• Scan paper documents such as receipts, invoices, and bank statements and file accordingly. For tax filing purposes, IRAS allows small businesses and non-GST registered businesses to discard physical documents if you have made electronic copies. Scanning should be done weekly.
• Documentation must be kept for the last five years – anything before that can be discarded.
• It sometimes helps if you have a master list (or index) of file names to refer to if you’re dealing with many different folders.

Move 90% of incoming paper off your desk each day
We get it – running a small business means endless multi-tasking, and sifting through paper is the least of your priorities. Much like inbox zero, the goal with going through paper is to establish a one-touch process: recycle junk mail; store or scan important documents such as invoices, receipts, and bank statements; or put things like bills in your working folder.

File with taxes in mind
The truth is, most of us keep records for tax filing purposes, so an easy way of organising your paperwork is to design the system around the goal. Designate a box or magazine folder to contain all the tax-related documents, including:
• Bank statements
• Receipts for expenses
• Receipts and bills paid
• Charity receipts (if any)

Brighten and lighten
Many professional organisers recommend colour coding your filing system. This isn’t for aesthetic purposes; rather, it makes folders (especially if you have many folders over different years) easier to find.

Assign discard dates
If you prefer to physically store documents, prevent hoarding paper you don’t need by writing discard dates on the top of each document.

And finally, tackle your namecards
The weird thing about namecards is most people keep them ‘just in case.’ In most cases you’re unlikely to use a contact if you haven’t been in touch for more than a year, but just in case – you can use an app like CamCard to digitize the storage of business cards.