Purge document clutter with three simple practices. Clear the workplace of excess files when you:
- Set policies for document retention. Much information clutter comes from “just in case” hoarding. Rules such as “The person who creates a document is responsible for maintaining it” eliminate every recipient’s urge to keep a copy. Check any legal requirements for how long you must retain records. Set procedures for archiving and then destroying old files.
- Train new staff. In onboarding sessions, include instructions on where new hires can find information, how they should file documents and what they may discard.
- Review departing employees’ files. Develop a process for reviewing the paper and electronic files of people who leave your organization. Determine what the next employee will need and what you can eliminate. That prevents new hires from adding files on top of existing files, creating a mountain of clutter.
To eliminate existing document clutter, set aside one day for all staff members to focus on reviewing and clearing files.
—Adapted from “Downsize Your Information: How to Do It and Why,” Barbara Hemphill, http://www.barbara hemphill.com.