Refusing To Settle For Less Than Efficient
I had a true ah-ha! moment a while ago and it was anything but a pleasant one. Here’s what happened…
I tasked my assistant with filing three months of papers according to my Procedure Manual. Usually she would file just one month at a time but I had purposefully let papers pile up so I could stay focused on a huge, high-priority project. When I glanced back 10 minutes later my assistant was sitting cross-legged on the floor with piles of papers sprawled everywhere! She looked like the center of a gigantic pinwheel with white spokes pointing out in every direction. “Ah-ha!” I felt pure annoyance that a giant pinwheel had taken over my office.
While my years-old filing system had worked well to maintain organization for a long time, that was clearly no longer the case. My current filing system was no longer explicable and definitely not efficient. I thought for a moment and realized I had not taken time to re-evaluate what parts of the system were and were not working as the years went by, the types of documents coming in became more varied, and the amount of papers significantly increased. I proceeded to evaluate my filing system and pinpointed some annoyances.
System Evaluation Determinations
I receive way too much snail mail paper which needs to be dealt with constantly
My assistant spends a ton of valuable (and costly) time organizing and filing my papers each month
I spend a lot of money on ink printing out online receipts to be filed
Part of a tree was cut down just so I could print receipts for filing
In order to make room in the filing cabinet for all of next year’s documents that will be coming in, I need to find a place for all of last year’s documents but don’t have the space
I don’t have envelopes large enough to house my abundance of last year’s tax receipts
Nor do I have rubber bands large enough to bind them together
Bringing Efficiency Back To A Broken System
We decided that due to a lack of space, higher labor cost, and wasting of time, ink, and paper, it was time to go paperless. We brainstormed how to transition to paperless and decided on the following:
My monthly personal statements can be emailed or easily looked up online instead of mailed. Therefore, everything that can be switched to a digital-only format should be (e.g., gas, water, power).
I will start filing emailed receipts electronically instead of printing them out just for my assistant to file them away. So, everything that arrives to me in digital format should stay in digital format (e.g., Amazon, Edgar, Microsoft).
Some bills and receipts do not have a digital option but taking time to scan and file them electronically would be inefficient. I can’t just throw them away either because Uncle Sam might decide to audit me years from now. Therefore, everything that arrives to me in paper format should stay in paper format (e.g., Sam’s Club, Starbucks, Chili’s, Office of the County Treasurer).
Although we determined going entirely paperless is not possible, my overarching goal is to be efficient in my filing - not to be void of any paper. After editing my Procedure Manual, we attacked our new system with a trial and error mindset over three months. We figured out which elements were working and not working, brainstormed solutions, and made necessary tweaks. My monthly filing procedures now take less effort, money, and time which, compounded over time, add up to lots of effort, money, and time that can be put toward better, more profitable use.
It took the visual of a paper pinwheel taking over my office to realize my filing system needed an overhaul. While it worked well for years, I had failed to re-evaluate my filing system as my business grew, purchases increased, and incoming papers tripled. As a real estate professional, your business is constantly changing. You must evaluate your underperforming and inefficient systems and look for creative solutions to improve the way you operate. A slight change in operations could make a world of difference in YOUR production!
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About the Contributor
Amber De La Garza is The Productivity Specialist! Amber is a sought-after coach, trainer, speaker, writer, and host of the Productivity Straight Talk podcast.
She helps real estate professionals take consistent, massive, focused action in business and equips them with the specific techniques needed to reduce stress, increase profits, make more time for what matters most, and achieve their vision of success.
Get the details on Amber's February Webinar with Women's Council.
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