Your hard-copy filing system, still needed for keeping irreplaceable items like original signatures, becomes overloaded to the point that filing anything – much less finding anything – becomes nearly impossible. Here are a few tips for making your hard-copy filing system work for you, instead of the other way around:
Stay Intuitive: Before arbitrarily setting up locations for various files, take a good look around your work area and think about where you tend to intuitively look for various items. If you can get away with it while looking natural, actually reach for various items and take note of which drawers you automatically tend to go to for each item. Then, do the same with various file items. When it’s time to find that critical document – quickly – your instincts will tend to take over in the rush to locate the all-important item.
Decide on Nomenclature: Should you use an alpha organizing system, or one with numbers? Are purchase orders, for example, filed by client name, area of business or by number? Decide which system you will use before setting up anything.
Assess Space Needs: if you file 100 documents per day and hold on to all docs for at least a year, doing some simple calculations will indicate how much file space you need, which will in turn dictate where you place the cabinets and how they are configured.
Don’t Skimp on Labels: Sure, the smaller, less colorful variety may be cheaper. Again, though, over the long haul, you want a labeling system that’s easy to use and also durable. In addition, consider the fact that color-coding various parts of your system can save everyone time: Why look for a blue-filed item (like a water bill) in the green-colored cabinets (which are for food expenses)?
Ditto for File Folders: Invest in quality and also consider using a color-coded approach. The items that hold and designate your precious documents should be able to hold up to prolonged everyday use, and be easily identifiable by category so as to avoid misfiling.
One last bit of advice: Keep categories broad to start with, which will allow for adding more specific categories later.
Now, where did I put…?