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The Green Sheet Online Edition

May 14, 2007 • Issue 07:05:01


Prepare for the worst, plan for the best

What would happen if you weren't able to work? You probably don't like thinking about this, but many types of events could make it impossible for you to come to work tomorrow morning.

It could be a serious injury or disease. Or, there could be an illness in your family, requiring you to be with a loved one for an extended period. And, as the past few years have made all too clear, no one is immune to a natural disaster or terrorist assault.

So, don't even think it can't happen to you, because it can. Even something as small as tripping and breaking a bone can keep you from the office for longer than you might want to admit.

Take stock

So, back to the question: What would happen if you weren't able to work for a long while?

Sure, you know where the important papers are. You know which computer drives contain essential information and which e-mails await answers. But do others?

If someone needed to access your insurance documents quickly, would it be possible? If tax documents for the last few years were needed, could anyone other than you find them?

If someone looked at the contacts in your e-mail application or your cell phone directory, would the person be able to tell who is who?

For many, the idea of getting organized is daunting (picture someone you designate locating important documents with ease). There is just so much to consider:

  • Where do you start?
  • Who should help you get organized?
  • Who should act on your behalf, when necessary?
  • Who needs access to key information?
  • What data are critical to your business?
  • Where do you store documents?
  • How do you continue to run your company while preparing for your replacement?

Slow down

Slow down. Take a breath. Take another. The task can be discouraging, even overwhelming if you try to do it all at once. If your current system consists of stacks of papers on floors and chairs, you will have a bit more work than someone who alphabetizes files and organizes bookshelves by color.

Fortunately, most of us fall somewhere in between.

View preparing for your absence as an ongoing project. If you are looking for a definite start and end date, rethink it. This is a process: As your business evolves to accommodate growth, your important files will change as well.

Relegate and delegate

It may be helpful to share some files. One possibility is to create a folder on a public drive and store nonprivate documents there. Let selected individuals know where the documents are and under what circumstances they may need to access them.

If you work alone, appoint someone to take charge should you ever be out of commission.

Get that person up to speed on your organization. Show him or her where important files are and any access codes or passwords needed in an emergency.

The key is to start small. You do not have to complete this in a day. Set aside about 10 minutes a day for setting up procedures that will help you and others stay organized.

If you are serious about the process, and dedicate a small amount of time each day, your system should start to fall into place almost by itself.

Make sure your successors have the information they will need, and then relax. Hopefully, disaster will not strike, and you can use all this preparedness for a vacation. end of article

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