Spring has Sprung!

Spring has Sprung!

Aside from  finishing your individual income taxes, looking forward to ever more beautiful weather, budding flowers and summer vacations, what does spring make you think of?  Spring cleaning perhaps?  OK, not as exciting as planning your summer vacations and day dreaming about laying on a beach slowly sipping a frilly umbrella drink, but spring cleaning can be fun.  And, it can end up being pretty darn productive.  Especially for tax professionals!  Look around your office.  Look around your desk.  Don’t run past the files in the hallway with endless rows of file cabinets and the old offices that have been gutted to incorporate ever more rows of daunting grey file cabinets.  Don’t hide those eyes.  Look at the size of your mail file, and think about those emails you have been receiving from IT telling you that you continue to exceed the size of the mail files allotted by your corporate IT policy.  Pick a day.  Don’t wait for another week, another day, go ahead and put it in your schedule.  Better yet, get the entire tax department to pick a day (or at least a half day), to do some “tax department spring cleaning”.  I am a pretty neat person (my son calls me a “neat freak”), and I still accumulate too many things and am constantly too busy to get ahead of organizing and cleaning on a regular basis.  Here are some general office spring cleaning tips I found out there from other professionals, and ones that I have used:

  1. Clean your computer monitor and keyboard. Yes, it is covered with fingerprints, dust and that splatter of soda the last time you opened a can at your desk.  Don’t use Windex (even if you are tempted).
  2. Go through all those gadgets and collectibles on the surface of your desk and that are on your book cases.  Do you really need them, or are they collecting dust (I know you thought that last collection of conference gadgets were pretty ingenious, but are you really using them)?
  3. Get rid of old papers.  You know you have them all over your desk in nice neat stacks that you think you need to keep handy.  How about going through them and scanning the ones you really need and getting rid of the hard copies?
  4. Remove out of date post it notes stuck to your bulletin, desk or computer monitor.  And change your password if one of those stickies had your password on it!
  5. File loose paperwork electronically.
  6. Go through files and scan to save only electronic documents.  Keep an inventory electronically of key documents.
  7. Throw away old ink pens.  Yes, that means trying all those ones you stuck in your desk and aren’t sure even work anymore.
  8. Go through old CD’s, storage disks, etc. and get rid of the ones you don’t need any more.  There are external hard drives that store huge amounts of data that can hold all of your old work product.
  9. Go through your add/remove programs file and uninstall any programs that you don’t use any more, off of your computer.
  10. Go through all documents on your hard drive.  Delete ones you don’t need, copies, or the “final_final” document or spreadsheet before the “final_final_final” document or spreadsheet that you ended up with.   Re-categorize and/or streamline your folders.  Archive old docs out onto a separate hard drive.  Don’t be afraid…you can still get to them if you really need them.

 Now let’s get to the good stuff.  Your tax department shared drive.  The ever growing labyrinth of spreadsheets, workpapers, documents and .pdf’s that are changing and getting re-saved into folder upon folder out on your network.  How about having one or two folks from your tax department create an “inventory” of your network files, write a description of what that file folder is used for and who accesses it, and then assign one or more folks to go through it to archive, delete, consolidate and generally clean it up.  And continue down the line.  All folders should be reviewed, documents checked and organized.  You can then have one person (that most everyone trusts as a great organizer), to review the current final folder structure and make recommendations on how that structure should be organized going forward in the hopes of further streamlining.  You will be amazed at what you can do!  Once this is complete, you could be ready for implementing a real document management system for tax.  Much of your implementation would have been completed.  Organization and clean up is key.  You will achieve great efficiencies for yourself and your colleagues with this simple spring cleaning plan.  Sound like fun now? 

How about if you designate a day or two (or three) of spring cleaning for your entire department and then make it more fun with:

  • A scavenger hunt – creative finds while cleaning out your offices or cubes.
  • Prize for the highest volume of scanned and shredded paperwork.
  • Prize for the most ridiculous thing someone has saved in their desk/office/cube.
  • Prize for the most copies of one document or spreadsheet found out on the network.
  • Create a donation bin to be provided to local charities with things from your work areas, left over conference gadgets and just things you don’t need any more.
  • Bring in some food and drink and make it a spring party to celebrate when you are done!  Or have everyone head out after to celebrate, or give everyone the afternoon off…

 I am thinking a cold frilly umbrella drink on the beach.  What about you?

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