• How often the files are referred to.
• The retention requirements.
• What the files are used for.
If possible, convert paper files to electronic files for archiving. If electronic conversion is not possible, store archival paper files in a storage room or basement and make sure storage boxes are clearly labeled. Electronic files should be archived on disk, CD, or flash drive. Make sure you create a directory. Once electronic files have been archived, delete them from your computer.
Some people have a hard time discarding things. Make it easy to throw things away by keeping your wastebasket, recycle bin, or shredder handy. Use them daily.
How do you know what needs to be trashed? Here are some questions to help identify documents that may be disposed of:
- Are there legal or other requirements for retention? If so, what are they? Post the retention requirements where you can easily refer to them.
- Will anyone use this document again? If so, how will it be used?
- Is an original required or will a copy due?
- Is this a rare, one-of-a-kind document or can duplicates be obtained?
- Can you retain an electronic version rather than a paper version?
- How difficult would it be to get a copy?
- Is this document required for documentation?
You can probably toss these documents:
- Working drafts after you have a final approved draft
- Duplicate copies of documents if the original has been saved
- Routine documents
- Hardcopies of electronic files
- Publications available in libraries or online
- Notices and memos not needed for documentation
Clutter can be dangerous, too, since it gives the impression that you are disorganized and unprofessional, which is not good for your career. It's also emotionally draining to see a mess when you walk into your office in the morning. Lastly, you lose productivity every time you have to search for a document buried in a stack.
Need more information? See my article How to Clear the Clutter in Your Office and visit my website Learn Act Grow and get a copy of my complimentary e-book 10 Tips to Get Things Done Better, Easier, Faster.