When we return to the office after being on a business trip for a few days we often have some work we need to catch up on.
We haven’t had time to read and reply to all the e‑mails we have received during our time out of office since we have had a tight schedule on our trip trying to make the most of it. Our colleagues have left notes on our desk and we have a handful of missed calls to return.
The last thing we want to do is to spend hours taking care of and account for receipts we have received and expenses we have had during the trip. The trip is over, done, finished, and we simply want to proceed with the next challenge.
Order at once
Is there a way to minimize the supplementary work dealing with representation- and taxi- receipts as well as receipts for any other expenses you have had, when we get back to the office?
Yes, there is at least one rule of thumb you can stick to: The sooner we process these receipts in a structured and systematic way, the sooner we can resume working with other tasks once back at the office.
And if we organize the receipts in whatever order we want to find them organized in when we begin accounting for them back at the office as we receive them in the first place, there will never be a mess to sort out.
This is how I do it
A simple tool which I personally have had much use of practically daily is a plastic folder with five pockets. I bring the pocket-folder with me as I travel. I have intentionally gotten a bag that opens from above and which I do not have to take off or put on the ground to open. In the bag I have the pocket-folder with the opening to the five pockets facing upwards as well. To me the five pockets represent the five workdays of the week.
As I receive a receipt after treating someone to lunch or right before I get out of the taxi, I scan the receipt with the Genius Scan app, I email it to myself and then I simply put the receipt in today’s pocket. I do not just throw the receipt into the bag, I do not put it in the pocket of my trousers, nor in the inner pocket of my jacket. And I do not put the receipt between my teeth for a moment as I grab my bags and coat and get out of the taxi into the rain.
No, the receipt goes straight into the right pocket right away.
Once back at the office after my trip I take the folder out of my bag right away and place it in my physical inbox on the desk together with notes from meetings, notes from telephone-conversations, mail I have received and other physical material I need to process. The inbox soon resembles a physical mail-box and when I get to the pocket-folder, the receipts it contains are already in order.
The different pockets also often get to represent different clients since I often have more than one assignment per day when I travel and hence different clients need to be charged for my travel expenses during different days. The sorting by day hence comes in handy when I need to account for the costs and expenses back at the office, and I am always equally grateful to my “historical self” for previously been so thoughtful and doing the sorting of the receipts while traveling.
The five pockets could also represent five different clients (even if you are working for several clients during a single day), different types of accounting (expenses you have paid yourself, charges to the company’s credit card, et c), or different credit cards if you happen to have several.
So, if you spend more time than you would like today on gathering, organizing and sorting out the pile of receipts after you have been on a business trip, get a five-pocket folder as well. Or, determine some other place that comes naturally where you consistently store the receipts you receive during the trip, so that they are easily found and dealt with once back at the office.
Processing early means more time for more important matters
If you immediately store expense- and travel expenses-receipts in a systematic manner as you receive them you will have more time for productive work rather than sorting out the piles of receipts you have accumulated. You will probably even be able to go home earlier on Friday-afternoons as well since we tend to save these types of tedious tasks for later and last, when all the tasks with higher priority are completed.
What is your method?
How do you minimize the amount of work you have to do after a trip is completed? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.