Friday, January 04, 2008

New Year Organizational Tips

Before the year gets too far under way and you put aside the final task of 2007, do yourself a favor: Clean up after yourself.

It's human nature. We keep plugging along. Doing the next thing. And the next. Before you know it, January's gone. And whatever you needed to do to clean up for 2007 is gone, too.

Here's a draft checklist to get you started on the last thing you need to do for 2007:

1. Create your 2008 physical files.
However you file your stuff, take an hour and create at least the structure for what you'll do in the new year. Get our your label maker and create file folders for clients, contracts, credit cards, vendors, etc.

If you are keeping things from the old files, move them to the new files.

You may want to use a different color for 2008 than you did for 2007, although there's an extra expense in that.

2. Pack up the old files.
Move the 2007 files into paper file boxes. Keep these around for the month of January. When you need something from 2007, move it to the 2008 file cabinet. But most of your stuff should just be moved to the paper boxes.

3. Outlook new folders.
Repeat this process with your Outlook folders. Create 2008 folders (or perhaps create one 2008 folder and create a series of folders inside that).

Unlike physical folders, with outlook you can copy things you need from the old folders to the new ones. Better yet is to use the .pst procedure below and not copy anything into the new folders.

4. Outlook old folders.
Move all the 2007 folders (clients, vendors, products, etc.) into one core folder.

Then export that folder into a .pst. When you do this, be sure not to just click next, next, next. Two key points: 1) Give the file a useful name (e.g., karl2007, not "personal folder"); and 2) Do not add password/encryption. You're going to place this file in a safe place, on your server, with NT file security.

You might just take your entire mailbox and put it in a .pst.

Place the .pst file on the server. Create a copy and make the original read-only. Then open the copy in Outlook. Now, along with inbox, sent items, etc. you'll have your 2007 folder.

My experience is that I keep this around for a couple of months before I realize I never open it any more.

5. Ask the tax man for a list.
Most enrolled agents and CPAs send out tax prep kits. These list all the crap you need to gather up so you can do your taxes.

Truth be told, putting everything from 2007 in one or two boxes will go a long way. Worst case scenario: take the whole box to the tax appointment.

But it's also handy to actually separate all this stuff and have it in one place.

Important note for 2008: Congress is still debating the exact extent to which they're going to screw the voters with the Alternative Minimum Tax. As a result, the high-end tax software will have a major update. Probably in February.

As a result: January is a great time to do corporate and LLC taxes. Assuming you're an S-corp, all that needs to be done before your personal tax return. So this year, your tax person will probably not be too busy in January.

6. Complete copy of network documentation binder.
Assuming you have a network documentation binder, make sure all the pages are up to date and make a photocopy of the whole thing. This will go offsite with your end-of-month backup tape. Together they really are a "snapshot" of your network.

You should do the same thing for all of your clients.

7. Don't keep things to yourself.
Whether you're a sole proprietor or a larger company, there's a tendency for owners and managers to break all the rules about file storage.

Stop it.

If your files need to be in with the company files, integrate them now. Move things off your desktop and onto the server where they belong. Move things out of your "personal" file share area and put it in standard company folders (operations, marketing, employees, etc.).

Once you've done this once, get in the habit of storing things where they belong and you won't have to do this again next year.

8. Verify your end of year backup and take it offsite forever.
You should verify your backup every month (verify info from each drive, from system information, exchange, and key data areas). Then make the tape read-only and label "End of Year 2007."

If you're doing backups to hard drive . . . I guess you unplug the hard drive and label it "End of Year 2007."

It is more important every year that this information is stored permanently. Of course it should be stored offsite. Keeping your archive backups at your site is reasonably useless. The flood or fire that takes out your server will probably take out the room next to the server.

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General tip for filing projects: NEVER touch something twice if you can avoid it. Once you touch it, either
- Delete it (shred it)
- Put in in an archive
- Put it in a current, active folder (even if you have to create one).

Do not sort through a pile and create eight different piles, then sort through each of them, filing some stuff, and creating new piles with the rest. That approach will eat up your life.

Once you touch a file, folder, or piece of paper, you're responsible for putting it in it's final resting place.

Again, once you do this once, it's easier to keep up than to catch up.

Have fun.

Welcome to the new year!

1 comment:

  1. bblake7:15 AM

    Speaking of organizational and time management skills, check out - http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-5784740380335567758

    This video lecture is by Randy Pausch, a true inspiration in reminding us what is important in life. If you are unfamiliar with him, Google "last lecture" or Randy Pausch...

    ReplyDelete

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