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#578: Get Control of the Old Kind of Information: Paper

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, June 01, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, June 01, 2011
I've got pretty good processes and tools to filter and control electronic information but paper is another matter. Is it easier to convert to an all electronic info system or is getting control of paper going to be just as hard as electronic?

Whether your business is paper–based or paper–less, consultants waste an unbelievable amount of time and energy looking for things that should be properly filed and easily retrievable. It doesn't really matter how you do it—alphabetically, by subject, by category or type, by follow–up date, etc.—just choose the way that works best for you and make sure it gets done on a regular basis.

The simple trick is finding the reason your paper piles up in the first place. Avoiding having piles of unknown content sitting around "waiting to be filed," gets us off to a good start. You can figure out a triage system that works for you but a few failsafe ideas I have used may help. For paper magazines and journals (remember those?), set aside a file folder (e.g., 4 inches wide) and add new issues to the left side as they arrive. Commit to not have any issues except those in the file folder, and when it gets full, discard issues from the right side. Depending on your compulsiveness and curiosity, it is amazing how fast you can go through a journal when it is headed for the trash. I also take those on plane rides and don't bring them home.

Tip: The key to effective filing is a logical system and disciplined execution. Everything goes in a file folder - no piles of unread or unfiled paper, just like your electronic files should all go in a folder. This helps you categorize everything and highlights when something has no home and is just "interesting," a likely sign that it will never be acted on and should be discarded or recategorized. Don't forget the "round" file or shredder. For many non-critical pieces of information we encounter, these are the most appropriate permanent filing locations.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  information management  your consulting practice 

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