Records Management Essentials

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3.8. Organize your records

Organizing your records can produce significant results. An ARMA survey of companies implementing a records retention program for the first time found that 24.1 percent of the total volume of a company’s records are destroyed when the program is begun, 32.3 percent of the records are sent to inactive storage in a records center, and only 43.6 percent of the records remain in the office area.1 Over half of your office and computer server space could be freed up for other uses just by getting organized and using your retention schedules appropriately.

Begin by separating records from non-records. Copyrighted materials and reference materials collected by the agency, but created by other entities, are not records and should not be scheduled. Shared records that are maintained by other governmental entities, and not yours, should only be kept until they are no longer needed administratively. Temporary drafts are not records and may be destroyed, in most cases, once a final version is created. Separating records from non-records is an especially critical practice when using email accounts. Separate personal communications and papers from work communications and papers. If you receive personal emails on your work email account, forward them to a personal account and then delete them from your work account; likewise with personal documents. Delete transitory emails as soon as their administrative use has ended (e.g. the scheduled meeting has been held, the document has been received, etc.). Do not employ automatic purging routines, but do not let the volume of email in your account get out of control either; manage your email on a daily or weekly basis.

Make it clear which copies are following the retention schedule by separating record copies from other copies. Sometimes multiple offices possess copies of the same record. Only the record copy needs to be kept according to the retention schedule; duplicate or reference copies can be destroyed when the administrative needs ends, and must be destroyed no later than at the end of the retention period. This will require organizing and cleaning up any shared network servers, but each staff member will need to review the records on his/her personal computer as well.

Keep records that document a business process together in one location, whether physically or on the network server. The goal of records management is for records to be quickly available for future use by those who need to see and use them. Having to search in multiple locations for records involving a single situation is inconvenient and inefficient.


1Diamond, Susan. “Records management: A practical guide.” AMACOM, 1995, p. 69.