It’s Smarter to File than to Pile!

Are you struggling with how to set up a filing system for your important papers? Or are you dealing with one that just doesn’t work, making it difficult for you to find what you need when you need it? Or perhaps you’re just looking for ways to fine-tune a system that mostly functions well? To help things along, here are my favorite tips for getting that paperwork under control and keeping it running smoothly and easily.

Top 10 Filing Tips:

(and one extra-important bonus!)

  1. Use nouns for file names.
  2. Use file names that make sense to you.
    What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about where you would look to find this paper again? That’s usually the best file name.
  3. Eliminate “miscellaneous” as a file name.
    It has no future meaning, and anything that gets filed under it will probably never be found again. Remember that the purpose of a filing system is to make it easy to retrieve information when you need it.
  4. Use hanging files for broad categories.
    For example – “Autos”, “Medical”, “Travel”, etc.
  5. Use manila file folders within hanging files to subdivide broad categories.
    For example: Under “Auto” – “2003 Dodge”, “2009 Prius”, etc.
  6. Color-code your files by category (if you are someone who responds to color).
    For example: – green for financial, red for medical, etc.
  7. Keep your filing categories broad.
    No file should have only 1 or 2 pieces of paper in it.
  8. Place the plastic label tab at the FRONT of hanging files, rather than behind.
    It’s much easier to locate a file by pulling the label towards you and looking behind it, rather than placing the label at the back of the file, then trying to figure out where the file begins.
  9. Place all of the tabs in a single row. (All left, all center, or all right, rather than the traditional “zig-zag” pattern.)
    This way, if you have to move a file to a different location, or add or remove a file, you won’t need to change the placement of all the tabs.
  10. Think before you file.
    Consider whether you will really need to refer to that piece of paper again. Statistics show that 80% of what we file never gets looked at again.
    Ask yourself 2 questions before you file:
    “Can I get this information from someplace else if I need it?”
    “What would be the worst thing that would happen if I let this go?”
(because maintenance is the KEY to keeping it all under control!)
Purge your files regularly.

Set aside a few minutes each month (maybe when you pay your bills) to check through a few folders each time to clean out old, outdated stuff. Once a year (perhaps at tax time, or at the beginning of the new year), go through everything to eliminate the deadwood and make space for the new stuff.

Everyone, and everything, needs space to breathe. That goes for your files, too! Making space by purging the unnecessary, the outdated, and the unused, makes room for growth. Give yourself some breathing room today!

About Lisa Griffith - Professional business organizer and speaker - Griffith Productivity Solutions

About The Author

Lisa Griffith is a speaker and consultant who provides services, both on-site and virtually, to help busy professionals organize their offices, systems and calendars. In addition to business and home office organizing, productivity and time management coaching, she provides workshops & seminars for business and community groups.