Computers keep making it simpler for businesses to store data – with few limits on volume or length of time – but that’s not necessarily a good thing. Rather, because files exist in digital space, businesses have little motivation to clean things out. Don’t let your startup fall prey to this trap. In just a few short years, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by obsolete data, duplicate files, and other digital detritus. By building an annual digital cleanout schedule, though, you can keep your business’s digital files manageable.
Daily: Inbox Zero
With the volume of emails we all get daily, does anyone ever reach inbox zero? It is possible, but only if you make it a daily habit to empty your inbox. Don’t waste time and get lost in distraction for hours, though. Instead, commit certain chunks of time each day to dealing with your emails. When you leave unopened or unaddressed emails in your inbox, they become a source of anxiety and distraction. Just follow through on emails the day they arrive.
Monthly: Assess Your Invoices
Most financial records run on a monthly basis, so once a month make sure you set your invoices in order. That includes filing them all appropriately, ensuring all files follow the same naming conventions, and sorting files by client or account as appropriate. Your files won’t get cluttered if you do this monthly – or biweekly if you prefer – but you should make sure your financial records are well-maintained for tax purposes and that you retain them all for the appropriate length of time.
A Calendar For Culling
The most difficult part of file maintenance for small businesses is culling excess information like files from former clients, deleting duplicate files, and updating client information, and that’s when having a clear calendar becomes important. As the experts at LeanDNA explain, it’s nearly impossible to clean up all ERP data at once. Instead, this project should be broken down into manageable chunks and assigned to appropriate departments. Big companies might be able to devote a few staff members exclusively to this task, but your startup can’t.
Even as you split up this data cleanup, it’s important to assign the tasks to specific calendar windows to ensure that they get done. One option is to assign each new cycle to a two-month period. Direct client contacts, then, can be tasked with updating this type of information in the database since these files regularly become inaccurate. Clients may move, get new email addresses, or the contact on an account may change.
Complicated as it may be, it’s likely that a different team will be tasked with eliminating duplicate records than with updating them, since this doesn’t require direct client interaction. It does, however, make sense to schedule duplicate screenings for just after the annual file updates. Duplicate files can clutter your database, and they often emerge accidentally or when client-facing staff create a new file instead of editing an existing one.
The precise nature of your file management calendar will vary with your company’s unique needs, but the underlying goal is to ensure that everything you need is easily accessible and up to date. As long as you follow the industry standards for file retention, you’ll have everything you need right where you need it – which is more than a lot of companies can say.