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Records Management Tip Sheet 1 - Getting Started

10 Steps:

  1. Determine burning issues – where to start?
  2. Purge the Transitory
  3. Create a File List
  4. Add Classification and Retention based on RRS
  5. Purge More Transitory
  6. Destroy the Expired – Destruction Form
  7. Create Department/Team File Plan/Procedures
  8. Convert - Classify, containerize, label, organize
  9. Annualize – Review regularly
  10. Automate – Common Tools


1.    Determine burning issues – where to start?

  • Pick an area or series of records to focus on – paper files, electronic, email… (i.e. you are running out of space in an office or file cabinet, files need more organization, inherited legacy files…)
  • Keep scope small and manageable (get started, don’t worry about finishing, it will take time)
  • Pick something you can achieve an end result on
  • Typically, many RM projects start with paper, its tangible and measurable, you can see the space savings


2.    Purge the Transitory

  • You may want to do an initial purge before creating a file list, however if you aren’t sure if the records should be destroyed, then they can be purged after you create a file list.
  • At least purge the obvious transitory, if you can, this will save you time.


Note: for confidential records and records containing personal information, ensure records are securely destroyed by placing records in TMU’s confidential records shredding containers or by cross cut shredding.  For additional bins, contact Facilities. 


3.    Create a File List

  • Use an Excel worksheet to capture information – we can provide a template
  • Record file title, open date, close date – use year at minimum – if date unknown indicate this
  • You may want to number the files to correspond to your list – this way when you take action on the file there is a numerical sequence
  • Consider adding a description column to provide additional information about the records
  • For a group of records that are part of the same series, you don’t need to list them individually (e.g. Student Records A to Z – 1999 – 2000)
  • One way to obtain a list of files in a directory:
  • Copy the file path from Explorer and paste to the URL in Google Chrome
  • Copy the pasted content to Excel.  The files are hyperlinked so you can open the files to see the content.
  • Add columns as above
  • For additional tools or utilities email


4.    Add Classification and Retention information to your file list

  • When creating the list, create columns for the Records Classification, Retention time and Disposition Action so you can either fill these in as you work, or do it later on
  • Consult the University Records Retention Schedule (RRS) and attempt to classify
  • Try to make quick decisions, if you cannot classify then skip and come back later
  • I am happy to review – there may be gaps in the RRS – it is by going through this process that we will identify these more clearly.
  • You can then use this information to determine:
  • Which records are past due for destruction and add them to the  Records Destruction Form
  • Which records need to be retained and for how long


5.    Purge More Transitory

  • Have you identified any additional records as Transitory? If yes, these can be destroyed without any further recordkeeping.  Once destroyed, indicate this on the Records Listing.
  • If you have numbered the files this will keep the sequencing intact.
  • If you haven’t numbered the files then you can delete these lines from your File List
  • Review any records that you could not initially classify, do any of these meet the transitory definition, if so, purge.  If you still aren’t sure, email for advice.


6.    Destroy the Expired – Destruction Form

  • If you have records that are past due for destruction then these should be documented before being destroyed.  Refer to the Records Retention Period Calculator to view the destruction year for expired records. 
  • Copy these records to the Records Destruction form.  If the files are in boxes, complete one form per box.  If you are destroying from filing cabinets, then use one form for all.
  • Follow instructions on the Destruction form.
  • Update the File List.


7.    Create Department/Team File Plan/Procedures

  • This is more like a customized/departmental version of the RRS and procedures, it usually provides more detail on how records are organized and managed within a department.
  • Derived from analysis of the File List and other file management tools used
  • Contact for advice on this.


8.    Convert - Classify, containerize, label, organize

  • Determine if you will apply the file plan to existing records or use it on a go forward basis
  • Containerize
  • Folder, binder, something you can put a label on
  • Labelize
  • Use the Records Classification structure – if you want, add the retention info to your label
  • Add the year file was opened or created
  • Add a title that makes sense
  • Even if you don't know what the folder is going to be, add retention info to top right corner of paper so retention decisions easy to make later
  • Organize
  • Different groups of records may be organized in different ways – e.g. numerically, alphabetically, by Records Class or Type


9.    Annualize – review regularly

  • On a regular, maybe annual basis
  • Review and apply retention to expired records, complete Destruction forms
  • Annual Clean up days


10.  Automate – Common Tools

  • Current processes are manual, as program matures we will consider automation


  • The same principles/process can be followed for managing paper, electronic information and email.
  • These processes and tips will be refined and updated on an ongoing basis.
  • Email at any stage for additional advice, guidance and tools or to share your own tips and tricks.