It’s all about taming the piles.
My definition of accounting file management is keeping the right information in an organized manner where you can easily find it when you need it.
Once upon a time I had piles of paper on my desk, on my credenza, even on the floor. That’s besides the file cabinets I had full of all my small business accounting info.
When I wanted something, I knew I had it, but I wasn’t sure where. Then I read a bunch of productivity and time management books, and came up with a pretty good system of keeping accounting files that allow me to keep all the documentation I need and still be able to find things.
This system of file management involves using Current Files and Reference Files for all your data.
Some small business accounting info you need at arms reach, because you will need to access it daily, or weekly.
These files should be in a desk drawer, or in a desktop file stand like this.
Or, if your office is anywhere you put your laptop, think about one of those file boxes you can carry around or a little rolling cart with hanging folders in it.
If you’re not sure what to keep in your current files, just take a few minutes and jot down your regular activities, or take a week or so and note which files you’re reaching for time and again. These are good candidates for your Current Files.
If you have employees, your payroll files will need to be handy, especially if you calculate it yourself.
If you’re in sales, you’ll need a file for your orders or jobs to be completed. And if you use purchase orders when you buy your materials or products, you need a file for open purchase orders.
In my file management system, I have files for my checking accounts, loans, bills to pay, deposits to post, credit card accounts, and payroll and benefit information in my Current Files. These are located in a file stand on my desk or in a desk drawer. Easily accessible.
Within your Current Files, you can also designate a couple other files that will help you keep things straight.
You may find it handy for your file management system to keep a Current File labeled Waiting On. This file is for any projects you may be waiting on something to be completed or someone to get back to you before you can continue.
One note of caution, though. Make a note in your calendar to regularly study this file and follow up on the items in there so nothing gets lost.
Another handy file is a Reading File. If something comes across your desk that you want to read or study, but don’t have time right now, put it in your Reading File. When you’re going to lunch or an appointment where you have to wait, grab your Reading File and go.
Remember. This is your business. Your office. No file management system will work unless it serves you and your particular personality and work style.
File management is all about keeping YOUR information where YOU want it and where YOU can find it easily. Use these ideas as a starting point, then tweak them to fit your own personal needs.
Reference Files are for information you need to keep for reference, but that you won’t need to access on a regular basis.
These files are an important part of your file management system. Your small business will have lots of accounting info and legal info that you will need to save for future reference. Loan info, lease info, warranties, etc. will all go into your reference files.
Take a file drawer – or a couple of file boxes – whatever storage you have available – and put hanging file folders in there for each letter of the alphabet. Put manila folders in the hanging folders.
Take all the paperwork you want to keep, and file it by the letter that makes the most sense to you. Don’t worry too much about which letter. You most likely won’t remember which letter you file everything under, but at most you might have to look under two or three possibilities.
For example, you file your Jeep Lease paperwork. When you need to reference it, you look under J for Jeep or L for lease. There it is.
Some information that’s a good candidate for your Reference Files may be:
- lease agreements
- loan paperwork
- purchase agreements
- building information
- vendor information
- vehicle information
You may also want to set up a file for your tax preparer and attorney, and taxing authorities as well. Keep copies of all correspondence in your Reference File.
Think about how much of a load this will take off your mind. You no longer have to worry about where this or that is. It’s all together and easily searched.
If you’re technologically savvy, you may want to scan all your info and save it on files on your hard drive. Make sure you take pains to keep a good back up system if you do.