Tax time is upon us!
Can you easily locate all of the yearly documents you need to complete your taxes? I am currently working with several individual and business clients that have papers scattered all over their desks or rooms trying to gather everything. I see papers scattered all over the floor, laying on furniture, multiple drawers pulled out and I can not see the top of their desk! I have a few tips to help you organize your papers and deal with paper coming in so that paper does not pile up on you and help you be better prepared next year for tax time.
You Gotta Have F.A.I.T.H.! Pardon the pun but F.A.I.T.H. will get you through any and all papers you receive throughout the year. The F.A.I.T.H. concept was developed by Professional Organizer, Monica Ricci and is definitely true! F.A.I.T.H. means there is only 5 things you can do with paper and mail: File, Act, In Progress, Toss, Hand off.
Anything that requires filing, you dhould do immediately or by the end of the day.
Only file items that you honestly believe you may need in the future and will not be able to find electronically.
Act means it is Decision Time!
Ask yourself, “What action does it require on my part?” or “Can I Delegate, Defer or Hand-off to someone else?”
You should quickly scan each piece of paper and if you can not file it immediatley, mark in the uooer right hand corner of the page, the action it needs to take. It will save you from having to read over the paper again later to see what you needed to do with it.
This is the most important part of paper management. This is where most people forget that they needed to do something or are waiting on someone to do something. Examples may be invitations, pay a bill, return something, or you could be waiting on something or someone to do their part before the paper/project can be completed. Designate a place for you to hold these papers. I generally recommend creating a file folder(s) called “Action” and placing it in the front of your desk filing drawer. If you are working on a project that has many different parts or people working on it, I recommend using a roll cart as shown.
Once you have checked the piece of paper and have decided that it is not something you need to keep or hand off to someone else, toss it in the shredder or trash can immediately. Remember that if you can find the information somewhere else, you should probably toss it. Always check papers for identifying information when deciding whether to use the trash can or shredder.
Hand-off is just another name for delegate. Do not be afraid to do this. We often have things pile up on us because we are afraid to ask someone else to do it or we are afraid they will not do it the way we want it done. If you have certain people in your family or at work that you constantly have papers for, create them a special place their papers will live until they pick them up.
Click here for retention guidelines of household documents.
Click here for retention guidelines of small business or self-employed documents.