Business – Constructing Efficient Systems – What Types of Filing Systems Would Help You?

There are several different types of filing systems that can be used in your business to keep things organized and easy to find. Of course, the more paper you use, the more filing cabinets you will need I recommend that you choose a different colour for each filing system. This provides you with a visual reminder of where the file belongs..

Following are some of the systems which I have found are helpful in my private practice:

Client Filing System – We have tried a number of different ways of keeping these but have found that the best is to use letter sized folders with self-sticking fasteners on each side. The file label has three rows. The top row has the client’s surname followed by a comma and the first name(s). The second row has a coding system we use that is formed by using the year and month that the client file was opened as well as the number that indicates how many referrals have been received in the year to date.

We use legal-sized vertical files with hanging file folders but file all of the client files alphabetically. The most important thing to remember is that you will receive a number of files over time and therefore need a system that will accommodate and hold them according to professional standards.

Financial Files – As my business has grown significantly I have had to divide the various aspects of the financial accounting into smaller systems. Initially, however, you will need files for Income, Expenses, Assets, Liabilities, Banking, Income Tax and Reports. Again I recommend different coloured folders for each and, if possible, a separate filing drawer to hold them. We also use banker’s boxes with the year clearly marked on the outside to hold information from previous years that need to be kept.

Topical Files – Over the years I have collected a great number of wonderful articles and handouts. We have developed a written list of the various file names and sorted these into subject groupings that are filed alphabetically.

Correspondence and General Information – There always seem to be things that you want to keep which don’t seem to fit into the above systems. We have one drawer that houses these again in alphabetical order.

Do not get too sophisticated when it comes to a filing system. The idea is to ensure that the things you keep really need to be kept and then can be found easily when needed.

Filing systems can either waste time or save time depending on how they are set up. It is therefore a good idea to plan well before you even begin. That’s all part of the adventure of having a business.

Business – Constructing Efficient Systems – File Administration

One of the most important aspects of providing service is to ensure that proper and complete documentation is done. Besides promoting efficiency in your business and being able to trace the work you have done with and for the client, you may need to produce information at a later date for government audit, to resolve complaints or to measure progress.

Each contact you have with the client, whether it is by telephone, email or in person, must be recorded with the date, name of the individuals involved, information shared and plan of action for the future. I have developed a form with four sections:

1. How the person made contact

2. Billing information (date, name of individual, time used during the contact, rate per hour, total fee for the contact, organization or person responsible for fees).

3. Blank lines where I can write details of the contact. Make such that you writing and sentence structure are so clear that a child could read what you wrote and understand it.

4. Action steps for dealing with this (file, request file extension, return call, provide referral)

All information, reports and notes must be put into a file that is labeled for that particular client and stored in a locked cabinet and secure setting.

When the contact consists of billable time, I immediately invoice the appropriate source, print the invoice and file it on the left-hand side of the file. I also record the invoice on a summary sheet which I keep at the top of that side of the file.

When reports are received from other professionals or organizations, I file them on the right-hand side of the file under a colored sheet of paper that separates them from my file notes which are filed chronologically on top of them. All information from other sources is confidential and should not be shared with the client or with other sources without the written permission of the individual who prepared the report.

When services have been completed and the balance of the account has been paid in full, remove the file from the active drawer and use a file closure summary sheet to capture your involvement. This should include the names, file numbers, reason for closure, number of sessions, reason and source of original referral, special comments and a signature. This form is secured on the right-hand side of the file which is then moved to the filing cabinet that houses inactive files. Remember to also to move the customer file in your computer bookkeeping system to inactive status.

Never release any information from the file to anyone unless you have written informed consent from the client or a legal subpoena. In either case, consulting with a practice adviser or your regulatory body will likely be helpful in determining what and how to release information. Also, never leave a file in any place where it might be seen by others. Even if a person only reads the file label, this is a confidentiality breach.

It is also best to not remove files from your office to ensure that they will not be misplaced or lost.

How to Be Busy Constructively

Many of us are busy. We rush from one situation to the next, crisis managing, snatching time here or there, trying to fit everything in. But how much of what we are doing is valid or constructive? How much of our time is spent repeating what we have already done, going over old ground or just putting a plug in situations until we can revisit them at a later time. Let us spend five minutes looking at ways to be busy in a constructive way and really use our time wisely.

– Write a list of everything that needs to be done. Initially it may take time, but once you get into the habit of committing everything down onto one list it becomes a useful point of reference. It is also a good discipline. It formulates the thoughts into a logical frame of mind.

– Prioritise the things on your list. There should be both work and personal items written down. Some may have time constraints like opening hours, others may have specific deadlines. Organise your list by degrees of urgency. It helps you to move more fluidly from one item to the next. And some things may drop off the list as the day progresses.

– Is everything that you are doing useful? Some things may be whimsical, which is all well and good, but if you are already overloaded could those things be done another time?

– Respond to situations rather that react. Consider the things that you are asked or expected to do. Then take time to weigh them up and think about the best approach, rather than rush in and find that you have wasted your time on doing things that are not necessary or are a duplication of previous work.

– How much of what you have on your list is there through feeling guilty? Often busy people have responsibilities like partners, family, children, business, that they feel are not given enough attention. It can be natural to feel that we have to compensate by doing extra things, spreading ourselves even thinner. Is that the best approach or would something more constructive be better, like finishing work earlier, delegating some jobs or being honest about the pressures of our situation.

– Time manage. Keep a diary and let your day be better organised. See where you need to be and work around it, allow yourself enough time, rather than always being on the last minute and rushed.

– Try to finish what you have started. Rather than do a little of several jobs all at once try to finish one job before moving onto the next. When that is not possible take the time to make notes at the front of the file, on where you are up to, what is in progress, so that when you resume the job you know exactly where you are up to. It saves a lot of time.

– Schedule breaks, food, exercise for yourself. If you become unfit, unwell, stressed then you will not be able to function properly. Our car needs to be taken for a service, have oil put in the engine and air put in the tyres from time to time. We need to be maintained too.

– Ask for help. If people are asked they are often pleased to help. Include them in your plans.

– Think simple. I remember an older colleague being asked to join the young lads from the office for a game of football. They raced up and down the pitch, expending loads of energy. He looked up and down, moved in and took possession of the ball over and over again. Sometimes keeping it simple and seeing what is needed is the best option.