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MacDonald: Winning the battle of the bulge

Machen MacDonald

Whoever said computers would cut down on the production and consumption of paper? Could the paper mills be in cahoots with the computer industry? That's a whole other article. Back to this one … If your office is anything like ours or many of our clients, it doesn't take long before a ream of paper makes it from the office supply store, back to the office, in the printer and out to various piles and files. It is the new battle of the bulge.

The good news is you can streamline the accumulation of documents and get back in control.

The biggest challenge we find is most people don't have a system for how to process all the documents they generate as well as the ones that come in from other people. So when faced with paper that you are trying to determine if you need to retain and file, use the following list to help you.

• Do I need to keep this paper/document/file for tax or legal purposes?

• Is there a law, policy, rule, regulation or guideline which determines how long to keep this paper/file?

• Can I shift storage responsibility of this paper/file to a different division or department within my company? If so, which one?

• Do I need the entire item or just a portion of it?

• Will I really read this article/document?

• Will I ever really access this paper/file again?

• What is the worst thing that could happen if I purge this document?

• Can I access a more current version on the Internet when and if I need it?

• Can I easily access the document elsewhere within or outside of my company if I were to purge it now?

• Is it likely I will get another one of these papers at a later date (reminder, notice, etc.)?

• Is the paper/information outdated and is it accurate or useful anymore?

• Is it a duplicate? If so, how many do I realistically need?

• Is this document an earlier version of a final document, and if so, do I need a paper trail of earlier versions or can I just retain the final version?

Carefully consider whether it's worthwhile to retain papers. Think about the cost of cabinets and the price per square foot of space taken by them. Studies show that 80 percent of what is filed is never retrieved again. Be ruthless with what you choose to file.

Make it up, make it fun, make it happen!

Machen P. MacDonad, CPCC, CCSC is a certified life and business coach with ProBrilliance Leadership Institute in Grass Valley. He helps business people gain more confidence and clarity to live their ideal life. He can be reached at and 530-273-8000.