Mary Schaeffer
Mary Schaeffer

Clear the clutter

Five tips on reducing paper in accounts payable.

April 5, 2012
by Mary Schaeffer

Is your desk cluttered with piles of paper? Do you have documents lying around that need to be reviewed and either filed or trashed?

I’d have to plead guilty on both these counts.

While all this talk about going paperless is wonderful, don’t forget the basics—your desk! Here are five steps your organization can take to get rid of some of the paper:

  1. Get rid of old check stock from closed bank accounts. This means shredding unused checks--a task no one likes, but just think of all the space you’ll free up.
  2. Prepare inactive bank account lists and close them with management’s approval. Document the last time the accounts were used, what their intended purpose was, and the reason you believe the account should be closed.
  3. Hold “Invoice Amnesty Day” to get old invoices off staff members’ desks and into the process. The only way this works is if employees are assured that there won’t be any questions regarding the tardiness of the invoices. If your process is such that the invoices can be turned in anonymously, even better.
  4. Clean your desk—inside and out. If you have more papers on your desk than you do inside it, either file them or throw out all but the most important.
  5. Go through your files ruthlessly, moving old information to cold storage and getting rid of needless papers. Consider upfront scanning if you are not already doing so.

While you may not have the time or even the need to address every issue on this list, most of you will find more than a few that could use some attention. And wouldn’t it feel great to get rid of some of that clutter?

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Mary S. Schaeffer is the author of more than a dozen business books, including Controller & CFO’s Guide to Accounts Payable and Fraud in Accounts Payable: How to Prevent It. She writes a free weekly e-newsletter, e-AP News, and is a frequent speaker at accounts payable webinars, seminars, and conferences.