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 10X Your Email, Letter and Message Writing with TextExpander

I love finding tools that make tedious business tasks quicker and easier! I have to tell you about this tool I have been using for the past year called TextExpander. It saves you a ton of time with repetitive typing tasks. I wrote up how I personally use it in this article on LinkedIn. I also created this video to show how I use it in real time.

TextExpander has a free trial, so certainly check it out! If you do, can you let me know in the comments? If you use another tool, let me know that, too!

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

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

Looking to Reduce Paper in Your Office? Start with Talking to Your Staff

Many business owners want to be nimble and responsive to the market place, but find that paper is slowing down their progress. Doing business “at the speed of paper” will continue to be a drag on worker productivity, collaboration and their ability to provide exceptional customer service. So, what is a business owner to do?

Say It Is a Priority

One of the biggest keys to success is for business owners simply to state that reducing paper is a priority. According to the AIIM Research Report “Paper-Free Progress: Measuring Outcomes,” a major reason businesses are not successful in reducing paper is the lack of management initiatives or mandates to reduce it. Staff need to know this is a priority for the business, including allocating resources to move the business in the paper light direction.

Educate Staff

Business owners may find resistance from staff before even beginning paper reduction initiatives. This resistance is to be expected. The AIIM research report noted 49% of businesses stated their staff prefer paper for handling, reading, or taking notes. The report also noted businesses feel there was a lack of understanding of paper-free options, or there was the perception that physical signatures were needed. The good news is that business owners can reduce staff resistance through educational programs. For example, does your staff sufficiently understand how to use your PDF software to make the best use of it? Or, when was the last time your staff was trained on your document management system?

Ask Staff for Recommendations

Your staff are working daily to perform various business processes. They understand where paper enters the business, where it is created in the business and where it leaves the business. Business owners should ask their staff for improvement recommendations as well as ask why they continue to rely on paper. Staff will tend to have more buy in if they are a part of the process, versus being told they need to change without input. If a business owner does not have the time or expertise to solicit staff answers, a consultant can be effective and provide an outside perspective.

People Can Change

Your staff has already accepted moving from paper to electronic in their personal lives, why not at work as well? Most people no longer fill out checks at the register, and instead use bank cards and electronically sign for purchases. It is just more convenient to use the electronic terminal versus digging out a paper checkbook and pen. Similarly, when introducing new electronic technologies, emphasize the convenience for your staff, and just as many software vendors do, you can reduce support for older paper based processes which will eventually make them less appealing.

Take action today: make reducing paper in your business a priority!

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

Contact us today! Let us help you create a plan to meet your firm’s needs. To be notified of new blog posts and news, sign up for our email newsletter.

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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

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InfoCompass Business Solutions

Top 5 Email Tips to Tame Your Inbox

 

Is your email inbox overflowing and wish you could get it under control? Below I share my top 5 email tips and my system for managing my inbox.

  1. Send less email: If you send less emails, you will get less email replies. Makes sense, right? Instead of email, use the phone or walk over to your colleague’s desk or set up a short in person chat with your client.
  2. Acknowledge email receipt: Replies do not need to be a novel. A short response of “Got it”, “Thanks” or “Will do” will help the sender know that you did indeed receive the email and have read it. Otherwise, you may get a follow up email asking to confirm receipt.
  3. Manage email subscriptions: Newsletters, social media groups such as those on Linkedin, or article feeds can clog up your inbox. At least quarterly take time to reassess if you are deriving value from these subscriptions. Do you like the content, but are just receiving too many individual emails? Many subscriptions allow you to customize your settings to get a daily digest instead of individual emails. If you find you are not getting value from your subscriptions, you can unsubscribe from the email subscription all together. You can also set up email rules to directly route emails to an email folder for Newsletters for later reading.
  4. Schedule email tasks: Managing emails as soon as they come in will make you a slave to your inbox. Instead, schedule 1 or 2 times in your day to manage your inbox. You may also want to turn off the email notifications alerts on your computer as well to help eliminate distractions.
  5. Manage email using a simple system: Use a simple system to take control of your email according to your priorities. Here is mine:

Review/respond to emails

  1. 2 minute rule – I like the 2 minute rule from David Allen of Getting Things Done. If you can review or respond to the email in less than 2 minutes finish it now. Delay will mean it will take more time to deal with the email later.
  2. More than 2 minutes – schedule time for it in your calendar to do later. If you will not be able to respond to the email fully within a day, you can always respond to the sender with a short email letting them know you are working on the reply.

Sort/file email

  1. Create a simple filing system to process your emails. I suggest creating folders such as: Action, Waiting, Reference, and Records folders. Action and Waiting folders help manage tasks relating to emails, instead of cluttering the main Inbox. Reference type folders are for emails that retain their value for a limited time (newsletters, email subscriptions, sales, etc.). Records folders can be used to retain business records, if you do not have a document/records management system in place. You can create folders for each of your Clients, Projects or a Supervisor, etc. Ultimately over time these Records folders will grow in size and you will need to store these emails in a more suitable records system for their required retention, or risk the wrath of your IT system administrator.
  2. Use Rules to automate filing regular emails. For example, you can create a Newsletters folder and create a rule to automatically file all new newsletters into this folder. This removes clutter from your inbox and allows you to read these lower priority emails when it fits your schedule.

Clean up email

  1. Use AutoArchive to automatically clean up folders. Remember that Newsletters folder you created? Wouldn’t it be nice to automatically delete emails after a month? Outlook lets you do this with its AutoArchive feature. You can set individual folders to delete email when it reaches a certain age. This feature is great to use for managing short term unimportant emails.
  2. Schedule a quarterly review of your email folders for unimportant emails that can be discarded. It may be difficult to fit in email clean up at the end of a quarter, so you may want to schedule this task at the beginning of the following quarter. Set aside some time to clean up your inbox and folders to ensure your email system is humming along. This is also the time to think about implementing any adjustments to your system, always remembering to keep things simple.

Do you have any additional email tips to add? I’m always looking for better ways to manage email. Please leave me a comment below.

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

Contact us today! Let us help you create strategies to optimize your email processes.

InfoCompass Business Solutions