Small business owners begin their business because they have a true passion for the service or product that they offer. Many small business owners are unpleasantly surprised by the amount of time that is required for marketing, networking, maintaining relationships, bookkeeping, and record keeping for the business. The fact is that no matter how much one tries to procrastinate these “admin-type” tasks, the tasks will not disappear. Instead, make the best of it by employing these 6 systems to streamline the record keeping process.
1. Hold yourself accountable.
Set aside admin time once a week to work on business development, bookkeeping and record keeping. Schedule enough time to accomplish a good portion of the task, or complete the task. Working in the morning for 1-4 hours at a time is recommended. Once the time is scheduled, do not let anything else interfere; do not accept appointments, turn off your phone, and close your email. Set a timer for 30 minutes at a time so you can focus solely on the task without distractions or having to step away. Once that timer goes off, take a 5-10 minute break. Time your break too so you do not get carried away in the blissfulness of the break and so you can get back to the task at hand.
2. Create a paper intake system.
These systems help to build efficiencies, clear work surfaces, and reduce misplacing important documents. Create a landing pad and paper intake location near the main entrance of your home or business. Immediately discard any paper, junk mail and business cards that you do not want into a recycle or shred bin near the landing pad. Using labeled baskets or folders, separate the remaining papers into the appropriate category, “Read/ Reference”, “Take Action” and “To File”. Then, during your admin time take those baskets or folders to your office and process the papers accordingly. When filing tax documents after processing them, place them in a file labeled “Tax Documents (year)”. This way when tax time comes around you only have to pull from one folder.
3. Keep your work surface clean and less of clutter.
Remove all personal items from your desk space. Put the family photos away, or on a credenza behind you. Place reminders (post-it notes, white boards, cork boards) out of your direct line of site to your computer and paper work space. Personal items offer distractions, especially when you are working on an undesirable “admin” task.
4. Burden of Proof.
Be sure to keep all pertinent tax information to back up your records. For all standard tax support documents (i.e. proof of deductions, receipts, W2’s, 1099’s, bank statements, and so on) keep them for 7 years. If you have employees, keep their records a period of 4 years minimum. For more information on record keeping for your tax returns, consult IRS Publication 583.
5. Scan your important documents.
These days the IRS accepts copies of tax documents, so if you really want to save space and time in the long run, employ a scanning and sorting program. I suggest a Neat scanner. Incorporate scanning documents into your paper processing system during your weekly admin time.
6. Utilize a good bookkeeping program.
One of the most common accounting and housekeeping programs is QuickBooks. QuickBooks has the capability to track finances, makes and takes payments, payroll, and tracks mileage. Spend the money and time up front to consult a professional expert and set up the program correctly. Properly setting up any accounting software will save you time, heartache and money in the long run, and will allow you to easily maintain and input information throughout the rest of the year.If you are tracking mileage, there are plenty of mileage forms and programs out there. If your accounting system has a mileage tracking area, I suggest using that. If not, I suggest using this excel spreadsheet. Mileage should be entered weekly during your admin time.
Bonus Tips: If the task is not your forte, hire it out. Do not hesitate to employ an expert. I guarantee that they will be more efficient in their time working on the project and you can put more energy toward gaining business, doing what you love and focusing on why you started your own business.
By Stacey Schimmelman, Professional Organizer, Simple Solutions LLC. Since launching her business in Spring of 2012, Stacey enjoys assisting busy families and professionals simplify their lives, and helping bustling business streamline their space and processes: www.simplesolutionspdx.com