Understanding Records Lifecycle in Records Management

Records have a lifecycle. For some, it just lasts a few days, while others are so important that needs to be stored and retained permanently. The lifecycle of data and records is determined by how long they should be preserved to meet administrative, legal, fiscal, and future demands. Throughout the entire lifecycle process, all essential records have to be appropriately organized, managed, and secured for their lifespan.

What is a Records Lifecycle?

Records life cycle refers to the phases that every record goes through from creation to the end of its lifespan. It consists of three main stages: creation, use and distribution, and shredding. The lifecycle of organizational records is determined by the value of each paper and file, and thus requires retention for a predetermined timeline.  

Records lifecycle allows organizations to effectively manage and maintain records from the creation phase to disposition. It ensures that all essential records are accessible at any time, and improves compliance with different regulatory authorities.

Three Phases/Stages of the Records Life Cycle are: 

1.  Creation Phase/ Receipt

The first phase in the records management lifecycle starts from creation. It refers to the process of production or reproduction of a file or any document. For example, you write a financial, marketing or sales report (creation) or receive a memo via email (receipt). Every record file and the document must be created in the finest version and format. It must be of high quality, valid, accurate, and dependable. A record file is created in various ways, such as

  •  Creating an MS Office file, presentation, and spreadsheet
  •   Transaction within a company syst
  • The reception of a word doc, excel sheet, email, etc.

In this phase, the record is considered active

2.  Distribution & Usage

The second stage of the records lifecycle is “Distribution & Use”. Once a record file is created or received, it then goes through a distribution and usage phase. The distribution in the life cycle of a record includes both internal and external distribution and the impact on the entire or a portion of a business.

Typically, the record is frequently used in this phase, and thus it should be maintained in an accessible location for easy access and usage. Depending on the value of the record, it could be kept either for a few hours, or days or even needs a perpetual safety.

 In this phase, the record is considered active 

  1. Records Disposition Phase 

The final phase in the records lifecycle is records disposition, records destruction, or records shredding. It involves the destruction of all inactive records when their retention timeline expires. With disposition, the records life cycle comes to its end.

Data and information that is no longer needed, the records may be transferred to archives or permanently deleted. The records management team must figure out or whether to destroy or maintain.

Destruction of record can happen in  various ways, including, but not limited to:

  • Disposing of in the trashcan
  • Shredding of paper document
  • Deleting of electronic document
  • Shredding of optical disk


Records life cycle refers to the stages that a document goes through within an organization. Typically it starts with records creation, and distribution/usage and ultimately ends with disposition. Every record remains active after its creation and distribution phase and becomes inactive. Inactive files are no longer needed and thus require safe shredding. 

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