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How To Create A Home Personnel Folder — And Why Bother

How To Create A Home Personnel Folder — And Why Bother

    Do you keep copies of your medical records? What about your tax returns? Most people do, because the information in those documents is important enough that it doesn’t matter whether your doctor or the IRS has a copy — you want to have a copy, too. The same goes for a wide variety of employment documents that many people keep at the office, if they keep them at all. But there are plenty of arguments against keeping your personnel information at work. Instead, it’s worth considering keeping copies at home and creating a home personnel folder.

    There are plenty of reasons you may need to check your copies of your employment information even when you aren’t at work: if you’re out with the flu, that memo on sick leave isn’t going to do you much good in your office. The same goes if you get a better job offer and you want to check your current contract. And if the worst happens and you lose your job, you may not be able to get copies of all the files left in your desk.

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    Documents That Belong In Your Home Personnel Folder

    Employment Contracts: While not all employers require written contracts, many do. They can take the form of formal offers of employment, letters of agreement or other documents — but no matter what form it takes, you should have a copy at home. While many people feel comfortable shredding their contracts as soon as their employment ends, it’s worth keeping your contract around for quite a bit longer. At the minimum, you should keep a contract through the expiration of any clauses (i.e. non-compete clauses), although it’s reasonable in most cases to keep copies of your contracts indefinitely.

    Benefits: From your parking space to your dental insurance, your benefits package is full of important information. As your benefits technically make up a portion of your compensation, it’s worthwhile to keep a copy on hand — and make sure that you’re taking full advantage of what your employer offers you. Furthermore, because your benefits can affect your home life — health insurance, anyone? — being able to consult that information at home can be crucial.

    Performance Reviews: In theory, performance reviews are your employer’s way of telling you where you’re doing a good job and where you can improve. In reality, most companies treat performance reviews as an easy way to determine promotions and raises. Keeping track of such information can help you find an opportunity or two with your employer.

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    Payroll Records: If things go south at your company and you find yourself in a position to file for unemployment insurance, you’re likely to be asked for certain payroll records. If there’s a problem processing your claim, you could be asked for several years worth of documentation. They’ll also want at least some of your tax records — in the U.S., most states require at least a copy of your W-2 form. The requirements may differ dramatically in other countries.

    Updates: All those memos and updates that get passed around the office regarding your health insurance, reporting times and anything else your supervisor or human resources manager comes up with seem like great wastepaper liner. But a surprising number of them are worth keeping, at least in the short term. It requires discretion to determine which updates are worth filling, but generally those affecting either your compensation or your responsibilities are worth keeping.

    Job Description: Your job description may change during your time with your employer, but it’s important to keep a copy of each version. It’s not so that you can argue against doing a task just because it’s not in your job description — but if you’re routinely taking care of tasks above your pay grade, bringing a copy of your job description to your supervisor might help you get a raise. If possible, it’s worthwhile to keep a copy of your resume at the time you receive each job description so that you can show your progression in terms of skills and experience.

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    Documentation of Problems: There are problems in every office situation, and some of them may require documentation. If, for instance, a co-worker is behaving inappropriately, you may feel the need to keep a record of the issue. Keep a copy of that record at home — in some cases, it might be worthwhile to keep the only copy at home. Such records can actually cause problems if they’re found laying around the office.

    Your Actual Personnel Record: In most places, you have a legal right to take a look at your personnel record any time you care to march down to the Human Resources department. You might consider asking to do just that — frame your question in a way that won’t lead those HR folks to file you in the back of the drawer when you’re done, though.

    Keeping Track Of All The Paperwork

    All these records can add up to a nice stack of paper. Ideally, you’ll go out and buy a bunch of folders and a filing cabinet — but that may not be a realistic option. Instead, any neat organization system that allows you to easily access any papers that you’re after works just fine. Tabbed folders and a box may be the best solution for you (as long as you store it somewhere dry).

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    You’ll want to hang on to most of this paperwork for a while. If there’s a problem with your employer (or former employer), you might be asked to provide documentation reaching back several years. If you haven’t run into any problems after four years, you’re generally considered to be in the clear. That’s the same length of time your employer is required to keep documentation.

    If you have any other suggestions for documents that need to go in a home personnel folder, please share them in the comments.

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    Last Updated on July 8, 2020

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    It is easy, in the onrush of life, to become a reactor – to respond to everything that comes up, the moment it comes up, and give it your undivided attention until the next thing comes up.

    This is, of course, a recipe for madness. The feeling of loss of control over what you do and when is enough to drive you over the edge, and if that doesn’t get you, the wreckage of unfinished projects you leave in your wake will surely catch up with you.

    Having an inbox and processing it in a systematic way can help you gain back some of that control. But once you’ve processed out your inbox and listed all the tasks you need to get cracking on, you still have to figure out what to do the very next instant. On which of those tasks will your time best be spent, and which ones can wait?

    When we don’t set priorities, we tend to follow the path of least resistance. (And following the path of least resistance, as the late, great Utah Phillips reminded us, is what makes the river crooked!) That is, we’ll pick and sort through the things we need to do and work on the easiest ones – leaving the more difficult and less fun tasks for a “later” that, in many cases, never comes – or, worse, comes just before the action needs to be finished, throwing us into a whirlwind of activity, stress, and regret.

    This is why setting priorities is so important.

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    3 Effective Approaches to Set Priorities

    There are three basic approaches to setting priorities, each of which probably suits different kinds of personalities. The first is for procrastinators, people who put off unpleasant tasks. The second is for people who thrive on accomplishment, who need a stream of small victories to get through the day. And the third is for the more analytic types, who need to know that they’re working on the objectively most important thing possible at this moment. In order, then, they are:

    1. Eat a Frog

    There’s an old saying to the effect that if you wake up in the morning and eat a live frog, you can go through the day knowing that the worst thing that can possibly happen to you that day has already passed. In other words, the day can only get better!

    Popularized in Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog!, the idea here is that you tackle the biggest, hardest, and least appealing task first thing every day, so you can move through the rest of the day knowing that the worst has already passed.

    When you’ve got a fat old frog on your plate, you’ve really got to knuckle down. Another old saying says that when you’ve got to eat a frog, don’t spend too much time looking at it! It pays to keep this in mind if you’re the kind of person that procrastinates by “planning your attack” and “psyching yourself up” for half the day. Just open wide and chomp that frog, buddy! Otherwise, you’ll almost surely talk yourself out of doing anything at all.

    2. Move Big Rocks

    Maybe you’re not a procrastinator so much as a fiddler, someone who fills her or his time fussing over little tasks. You’re busy busy busy all the time, but somehow, nothing important ever seems to get done.

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    You need the wisdom of the pickle jar. Take a pickle jar and fill it up with sand. Now try to put a handful of rocks in there. You can’t, right? There’s no room.

    If it’s important to put the rocks in the jar, you’ve got to put the rocks in first. Fill the jar with rocks, now try pouring in some pebbles. See how they roll in and fill up the available space? Now throw in a couple handfuls of gravel. Again, it slides right into the cracks. Finally, pour in some sand.

    For the metaphorically impaired, the pickle jar is all the time you have in a day. You can fill it up with meaningless little busy-work tasks, leaving no room for the big stuff, or you can do the big stuff first, then the smaller stuff, and finally fill in the spare moments with the useless stuff.

    To put it into practice, sit down tonight before you go to bed and write down the three most important tasks you have to get done tomorrow. Don’t try to fit everything you need, or think you need, to do, just the three most important ones.

    In the morning, take out your list and attack the first “Big Rock”. Work on it until it’s done or you can’t make any further progress. Then move on to the second, and then the third. Once you’ve finished them all, you can start in with the little stuff, knowing you’ve made good progress on all the big stuff. And if you don’t get to the little stuff? You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you accomplished three big things. At the end of the day, nobody’s ever wished they’d spent more time arranging their pencil drawer instead of writing their novel, or printing mailing labels instead of landing a big client.

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    3. Covey Quadrants

    If you just can’t relax unless you absolutely know you’re working on the most important thing you could be working on at every instant, Stephen Covey’s quadrant system as written in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change might be for you.

    Covey suggests you divide a piece of paper into four sections, drawing a line across and a line from top to bottom. Into each of those quadrants, you put your tasks according to whether they are:

    1. Important and Urgent
    2. Important and Not Urgent
    3. Not Important but Urgent
    4. Not Important and Not Urgent

      The quadrant III and IV stuff is where we get bogged down in the trivial: phone calls, interruptions, meetings (QIII) and busy work, shooting the breeze, and other time wasters (QIV). Although some of this stuff might have some social value, if it interferes with your ability to do the things that are important to you, they need to go.

      Quadrant I and II are the tasks that are important to us. QI are crises, impending deadlines, and other work that needs to be done right now or terrible things will happen. If you’re really on top of your time management, you can minimize Q1 tasks, but you can never eliminate them – a car accident, someone getting ill, a natural disaster, these things all demand immediate action and are rarely planned for.

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      You’d like to spend as much time as possible in Quadrant II, plugging away at tasks that are important with plenty of time to really get into them and do the best possible job. This is the stuff that the QIII and QIV stuff takes time away from, so after you’ve plotted out your tasks on the Covey quadrant grid, according to your own sense of what’s important and what isn’t, work as much as possible on items in Quadrant II (and Quadrant I tasks when they arise).

      Getting to Know You

      Spend some time trying each of these approaches on for size. It’s hard to say what might work best for any given person – what fits one like a glove will be too binding and restrictive for another, and too loose and unstructured for a third. You’ll find you also need to spend some time figuring out what makes something important to you – what goals are your actions intended to move you towards.

      In the end, setting priorities is an exercise in self-knowledge. You need to know what tasks you’ll treat as a pleasure and which ones like torture, what tasks lead to your objectives and which ones lead you astray or, at best, have you spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

      These three are the best-known and most time-tested strategies out there, but maybe you’ve got a different idea you’d like to share? Tell us how you set your priorities in the comments.

      More Tips for Effective Prioritization

      Featured photo credit: Mille Sanders via unsplash.com

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