Tip #1: At some point, old materials that you no longer refer to (regularly) will have to be relocated to long-term storage, and that is called archiving.
Archiving usually happens once a year, as we are creatures of habit and the change of the year number tells us that we could move some of the ‘old stuff’ out of the way, as it is no longer necessary to access it at a moment’s notice. At first sight, archiving sounds like a pretty straightforward process: ‘simply take all the old stuff and move it out of the way’. Sadly, you would be wrong there. A normal client file does not just contain the day-to-day stuff like correspondence and information, but also documents like contracts, specifications, schedules, etc, and those remain important even if they are mixed up with the other documents.
Any archiving activity, therefore, involves taking at least a cursory glance at the contents of the files you are about to move to the archive, to make sure no relevant documents are moved out of your reach. This is especially important, if your archive is somewhere outside of the actual office space, maybe a professional storage facility.
Tip #2: It stands to reason, then, to create a separation in your files into working documents that will be archived at regular intervals, and permanent documents that will stay in the office.
That separation is crucial if you want to ensure that the archiving process is a smooth one that does not consume too much time. This is especially important if you are archiving documents on a more regular basis than once a year. Permanent files will only have to go into the archive once the job is finished AND if they are of use no longer, even if the client returns for another job.
Archives need to be monitored as well, it’s not enough to just put everything into large containers and ship it off to a long-term storage facility. Each file that is archived will have to be listed in a manifesto, so as to allow easy retrieval. Just imagine you had no list of contents for all your boxes and you’d want to retrieve a particular client file! You’d have to go through things by archiving date, or box by box… and a gargantuan loss of time that would become.
Tip #3: It is useful to prepare archiving ‘on the go’: whenever a client file is finished during the year, add it to list in the electronic document with its tracking number, and mark the file with that number.
With this preparation done, the actual archiving procedure is much faster: you can easily identify the files to be archived in the shelves, check them against the list, quickly scan for documents that should NOT be archived and place in the archiving container. Mark the number of the container against the list, and you are done for this particular file.
Tip #4: There is a point to be made to ensure that all files pertaining to a particular client are in the same place in your archives.
The problem with archiving annually is that long-standing clients’ files will be separated into yearly portions. Just like files in your offices have to be maintained, archives must be looked after. It is useful to occasionally review the manifesto for recurring entries, retrieve those files and regroup them into one box – maybe even with room for additional files in the future. This is, of course, a cosmetic issue for most clients, but it might pay to look out for your most important clients and ensure all information is accessible easily and swiftly.
At the end of the day, archiving is a way of keeping track of files you no longer use as a matter of daily practice. At the same time, the practice employed must allow you to readily identify whichever file you are looking for and extract it from the archive without too much ado. Proper archiving practice will not only keep your office space clear of files that are no longer useful, but it will make sure you don’t lose track of any relevant documents either.
Ask the ClutterMeister
Some pertinent ideas from the 'old office dog' who has seen it all, to help clear away the mess in your office.
Sign up for FREE decluttering advice
My name is Tilo Flache and it is my mission to help my clients organise and declutter their work spaces.