National Clean Up Your Desk Day

Did you know that National Clean Up Your Desk day is Monday, January 14th this year? Every second Monday of January professionals around the country finally get around to putting that old coffee (or tea) cup in the sink. Ok, I might have a few lingering coffee cups myself!

If you are like me, you want to start the new year fresh, which includes freshening your environment. Use my 8 tips to clean and organize your desk:

1. Schedule it: Make a meeting with yourself to organize your desk. By booking the time in your calendar, you are letting yourself (and others) know you are serious about this task. If you already have a scheduled Monday, consider arriving to the office an hour earlier to get this done.

2. Trash it: Remove any old coffee mugs, utensils, or clutter that does not inspire you. Then review your desk for papers you no longer need. I know I typically have convenience copies or marked up drafts on my desk. So, I toss them in the trash (or shredder if they are confidential).

3. Process it: Are piles of paper lingering on your desk because they serve as a reminder of a task to be completed? A better way to track that task is to put it into a To Do list. I use Asana a free cloud based app that you can access from anywhere. Once it is in Asana, I can either trash the paper or scan it.

4. Scan it: Scan your important papers that you need to keep. I have a Fujitsu ScanSnap personal scanner on my desk. At the end of a meeting I scan any paper meeting handouts with my personal scanner onto my computer and trash the paper. Most of my papers are project based, so they get scanned to a specific project folder.

5. Keep it: One way to get rid of paper is to keep that document or email electronically. Do you really need to print out that email? Could you just bring it with you by accessing it on your smartphone or tablet? Or, for those of you that can, why not take notes electronically?

6. File it: And for those documents you absolutely need to keep in paper, file them away in a folder. I have some paper project files. I also have an alphabetical subject file as well. I find that if I am going to go through the trouble of filing a paper document, I want to use a label maker (like Dymo) on my folders to make them look neat. It looks 100% better than handwriting and makes my organizer soul happy.

7. Clean it: Wipe down your desk, telephone, keyboard and computer monitors to get rid of dust bunnies and any germs. Set out any fresh materials needed for business.

8. Maintain it: And, as with any system, it will need maintenance. Ideally you would want to take time keep your desk clean before leaving for the day. But, reality is you may need to book an appointment with yourself once a week to clean up. I think of this as my simple desk time. It is an investment in my sanity. I actually feel better and energized when my desk is clear and organized.

Let me know how your National Clean Your Desk day went in the comments below.

If you want to chat with me about making it easy to manage your emails, documents and paper files feel free to schedule a quick 10-15 minute call: QuickCall

Nitza Medina-Garcia, Certified Records Manager, Records and Information Management Consultant

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How to Take Paperless Notes Like a Boss

Over the past year I have been piloting paperless note taking using my iPad Pro and the Notability app. Like many people I was frustrated with keeping several volumes of notebooks that contained my notes from meetings, to do lists and other random thoughts. They served me well in the short term, as I had one place to enter my notes. But, I was always running out of pages and needed to buy a new notepad.

The question then became: what do I do with my older notepad? It still contained valuable information that I needed to reference, albeit not as often. I initially began separating the pages out and scanning my notes into my computer, using my desktop scanner. This was a step forward, but now I would need to set aside time to separate the pages, feed the notes into my scanner, make sure the image was clear and save the file into the appropriate file folder. This often became a backlog as other tasks took priority.

I had thought about typing my notes as I attended meetings, but I had two challenges. It was difficult for me to type and listen at a quick enough pace. This is a drawback especially if you are in a sales situation. My second challenge was my preference for note taking with a writing instrument, where I could circle, box or highlight ideas.

I decided to invest in an iPad Pro 12.9 inch with an Apple smart keyboard and Apple Pencil. I decided to use the Notability app because I could choose where to back up my notes, I could voice record, it had access to many of the most popular file sharing services: like DropBox, Box, Google Drive and OneDrive. I took it on several of my client appointments that included meetings and interviews.

Here are what I found as major benefits:

  • Hand Write Notes: with the Apple Pencil and the Notability app, you can hand write your notes to your heart’s delight! The pencil is responsive just like a pen or pencil.
  • Voice Recording: when taking notes, you can also enable voice recording. This is helpful if you have a question about why you wrote a certain word. You just tap on the word, and the voice record jumps back to that spot on the recording!
  • Digital First: there is no need to scan paper notes into your computer. The notes are already digital and you can set it to be backed up to your desired file sharing location.
  • Import PDFs: you can import a PDF as a note. I found this handy when marking up a PDF for revision or using a PDF form as a template for taking notes.
  • Add Text/Images/Stickies: you can type text if you want in part of or all of the note. You can add screenshots and sticky notes.
  • Handwriting Search: Notability converts your handwriting so that it is searchable! So, if you are looking for a certain word across all your notes, it can find it for you. This is a new feature that is very helpful when you have a large amount of notes.
  • Handwriting to Text: Notability can convert your handwriting into text. This a new feature that many of my clients had asked about.
  • Multi-Note Mode: Notability allows you to see 2 notes side by side. This is great with the iPad Pro 12.9’s big screen.
  • Access to All Notes: with the Notability app, all my notes are centralized in one place. No need to sift through all my notebooks to find a page.

Here is what I found as some of the drawbacks:

  • Pencil Battery: I often would forget to recharge my pencil battery. Luckily, you can quickly charge it by placing it in the iPad connector for about 30 seconds.
  • iPad Battery: I would forget to recharge my iPad. The charging cable needs to use the higher voltage one to charge with any speed, otherwise it may take 10x as long to recharge.
  • Bottom Page Writing: sometimes, I would write towards the bottom of a page and it would not recognize the pencil. Or, I would accidentally hit the iPad Home button. This can be mitigated by being more aware and flipping to the next page.
  • Multi-Tasking: I found if I needed to do heavy computer work and take notes at the same time, I would still need my laptop computer. Although the iPad split screen view is available to see two apps at the same time, the screen is just not big enough to see them both like you would in a two screen set up. So, in those cases I brought both my iPad and laptop to a meeting.
  • Cumbersome for Informal Settings: a smaller notebook might be a better choice when out networking or to record an idea in a random moment.

I would recommend to those who need to take notes, to consider using the iPad Pro, Apple Pencil and the Notability app for your note taking tasks. I can really see this being helpful for consultants, lawyers, secretaries, business owners, sales representatives or other heavy meeting attendees. It has been a game changer for the way I work.

Nitza Medina-Garcia, Certified Records Manager, Records and Information Management Consultant

Contact us today! Let us help you create a real world plan to become paper-light and reap the benefits.

InfoCompass Business Solutions

Are Your File Boxes Out of Control?

 

Are you struggling to manage your old paper files? I have worked with several businesses who have accumulated over the years several hundred boxes of business records. The businesses would periodically pull paper files not currently needed and place them into file boxes. They store the boxes in a storage location: maybe in a less used storage room or in a self-storage facility. Over time issues begin to develop.

Issue 1: Contents of boxes are a mystery

Allowing your employees to send files to storage without a formal procedure is risky. The quality of the contents, their arrangement and whether they create an inventory list can vary according to the employee. This can cause the business to lose control over the business records.

Don’t let your storage become a mystery. Before sending files to your storage area, employees should inventory the files. The inventory can be as simple as a spreadsheet that lists:

  • Box Number
  • Department
  • Record Type
  • Folder Name
  • Year of Record
  • Date Sent

The inventory will allow you to know what information you have and in which box the information is located. The inventory can also help the business track how long the records need to be kept. Boxes should not be sent to storage unless they are entered on the official business inventory list. The inventory list helps the business control the file boxes.

Issue 2: Files are missing from boxes

Be sure to develop a procedure to track files as they get checked out and returned.  When an employee needs access to a file in storage, be sure to record the employee’s name and the folder or box checked out to the employee. This tracking builds accountability with the employee and is an audit trail of a file’s circulation.

Issue 3: Storage location is risky

Your paper business files should be stored in a secure and environmentally safe location. Otherwise, your business files can become yellow and brittle from temperature changes. Or, they can become damaged from improper storage or weather related water damage. If you are storing your boxes onsite in a storage room, be sure that the room is restricted to only those who should have access to the files. The room should have a similar temperature as the rest of your office and not be at risk of the weather. If you are storing your boxes offsite, the same safety and temperature requirements apply. Consider using an official offsite storage vendor where you can rent just enough space as needed vs a self-storage unit that can require the rental of large unused units and less security.

Issue 4: Storage costs continue to increase

The more file boxes you retain, the more storage costs will increase over time. It does not need to be this way. All business records do not need to be retained permanently. Business records that have met their legal and operational retention requirements, and hold no historical significance, should be destroyed on a regular basis. Be sure to develop a records retention schedule that lists the types of records your business keeps, how long they need to be kept and how their retention period is calculated. For example, you may have a Record Type called Purchase Orders that is kept 5 years from the order date. So, Purchase Orders from 2015 can be destroyed in the year 2020.

Take Quick Action

Create an inventory spreadsheet like above, or contact us to get your free box inventory spreadsheet. Begin using your inventory spreadsheet today to keep track of your business information.

Nitza Medina-Garcia, Certified Records Manager, Records and Information Management Consultant

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InfoCompass Business Solutions

5 Steps to Eliminate Your Paper Piles and Feel Calm Again

 

Stop what you are doing and look at your desk. Are there piles of paper surrounding your computer? Do you wish you could wave a magic wand and make them disappear? I know how you feel. My week starts with the greatest of intentions, but after a few days of back to back meetings my desk gets covered with piles of paper.

How do I get back on track? I do it one step at a time. Here are my steps to getting back on track.

  1. Trash it: One of the first things I do is trash the papers I no longer need. I may have convenience copies or marked up drafts lingering on my desk. So, I toss them in the trash.
  2. Process it: Sometimes piles of paper linger on my desk because they serve as a reminder of a task to be completed. A better way to track that task is to put it into a To Do list. I use Asana a free cloud based app that you can access from anywhere. Once it is in Asana, I can either trash the paper or scan it.
  3. Scan it: I have a Fujitsu ScanSnap personal scanner on my desk. At the end of a meeting I scan my paper notes with the personal scanner onto my computer and trash the paper. Most of my papers are project based, so they get scanned to a specific project folder.
  4. Keep it: One way to get rid of paper is to keep that document or email electronically. Do you really need to print out that email? Could you just bring it with you by accessing it on your smartphone or tablet? Or, for those of you that can, why not take notes electronically?
  5. File it: And for those documents you absolutely need to keep in paper, file them away in a folder. I have some paper project files. I also have an alphabetical subject file as well. I find that if I am going to go through the trouble of filing a paper document, I want to use a label maker (like Dymo) on my folders to make them look neat. It looks 100% better than handwriting and makes my organizer soul happy.

And, as with any system, it will need maintenance. Ideally you would want to take time twice a day to address your paper piles to avoid allowing them to creep back: once before lunch and once before leaving for the day. But, reality is you may need to book an appointment with yourself once a week to get caught up. I think of this as my simple desk time. It is an investment in my sanity. I actually feel better and energized when my desk is clear and organized.

What is your strategy for conquering your paper piles? I am always on the lookout for new tips and tricks. Please leave me a tip in the comments below.

Nitza Medina-Garcia, Certified Records Manager, Records and Information Management Consultant

To be notified of new blog posts and news, sign up for our email newsletter.

InfoCompass Business Solutions