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Organizing Your Work Day Electronically

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Creating matching filing systems for both paper and electronic data makes it easier for you to sort, access, and organize information. By reducing the amount of paper you print and saving your data electronically, you will reap enormous savings in time and expense. This chapter will help you get started with electronic organization.
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

  • Learn about the "paperless" trend and what you can do to support the movement

  • Discover the benefits of creating parallel electronic and paper filing systems

  • Learn the benefits of becoming more organized electronically

  • Understand the basics of your computer system

When computers first came on the scene, many office workers figured that they would be the "magic bullet" for managing paper. Experts predicted that computers would create the paperless office we all had dreamed of. Today, most offices are anything but paperless, though computers have become essential in ways none of us could have predicted. In this chapter, you learn a number of methods for using electronic data management to make your workday more organized and easier to manage.

Today, most office workers maintain an enormous amount of electronic data in various forms within multiple software applications. Because there is so much information in today's work world, it is vital that we begin to think of how we want to organize our electronic data in addition to organizing our paper documentation. In this chapter, you learn how to create one world of information and data and begin the process of organizing your electronic data.

Although organizing your electronic data is an important step in organizing your work day, computer maintenance is an equally important part of that process. When your computer isn't working or your data has been destroyed, your productivity might stop completely. To avoid the chaos and lost time that can result from computer malfunctions, the average worker needs to maintain at least minimal knowledge of the workings of computers. By learning your computer's basic specifications and capabilities, understanding its file management system, and managing its basic maintenance tasks, you can keep both your computer system and your day-to-day work day organization running smoothly and efficiently.

Making a Case for Using Less Paper

Everyone is talking about the "paperless" trend happening in America, when in fact, it is just the opposite. America’s consumption of paper has doubled in the last 10 years—a period that marks the rise of computers as essential office tools. According to the book Myth of the Paperless Office by Abigail Sellen, a company’s use of email has produced a 40% increase in paper consumption. Hewlett-Packard did a study in the year 2000 that cited U.S. workers print on average 32 pages from the Internet per day. U.S. paper producers consume approximately one billion trees every year. This amounts to roughly about 735 pounds of paper annually for every American office worker! According to the paper industry, it expects that paper consumption will double by 2050. Clearly, we are not in a paperless trend.

In addition to the environmental impacts, paper is time-consuming to manage. Record keeping constitutes more than 90% of all office activity. According to a study done more than 10 years ago, U.S. companies file approximately 120 billion sheets of paper annually. Of that paper filed, over 80% is never referenced again!

After you print out a hardcopy, you then have to deal with it by sorting, organizing, filing, and eventually purging the document. As we are inundated with, print, and accumulate more paper, the time spent managing it mounts, as well. The task of managing paperwork becomes overwhelming, and too often, the paper piles up around us on our desks. If you reduce the number of documents you print, you can cut down on one major source of paper overload, help create a more organized office and work day, and save yourself considerable time.

Paper is expensive, too. How many square feet of space is devoted to filing cabinets in your office? Multiply that figure by the cost you pay for each square foot of your office space. If you fit the national average, then 80% of that figure is your cost for storing information you don’t use. With real estate prices only going up and the size of offices becoming smaller, it is important to maximize our office space. If you reduce the paper pileup, you can save money and maximize space in your office.

To begin to create that paperless office, we all need to reduce our paper consumption and get organized electronically. Moving to electronic organization methods is about changing your thought patterns and realizing that you don’t need a hard copy of every piece of information you use. Managing electronic data is much easier and less time-consuming than managing paper. To move toward a paperless organization system, you need to have basic knowledge and control over your electronic data, using techniques you learn about in this and the next few chapters.

  • Gather and record information about your current organizational system.

  • Determine exactly how you want to access your information.

  • Explore alternatives for categorizing your data.

  • Categorize and subcategorize information to create a master outline structure.

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