The first step in creating a filing system that really works is to identify your natural organizing methods and thought processes. By recognizing your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to managing paperwork, you can design a system that works the way you work.
To help you get started we’ve outlined some common organizing styles along with solutions for each of these particular types.
Do you stack until the stacks fall over and then start a new stack? The obvious but frequently overlooked filing solution for a Stacker is SJW Basics Letter Trays. Try stacking three letter trays and labeling one for incoming mail, one for outgoing mail and another for urgent matters. Another possibility for the Stacker is a desktop sorter or caddy. By putting your stacks in slots you keep your desktop manageable. If, for reasons you can’t quite explain, your stacks must be horizontal, try using Letter Boxes. At the end of the day simply cover the boxes to give your workspace instant order.
Do you create a new file folder for every piece of paper that crosses your desk? If your workspace is spotless but it takes you 10 minutes of searching to retrieve a document, you may be an Over-Categorizer. Having hanging file folders that contain fewer than five documents is a sure sign that you need to start broadening your filing categories. Not only is it tiresome and time-consuming to have to search through all those folders, there is also a far greater chance of misplacing something by using several different files than there is if you simply use one file for the entire category. For example, a hanging file labeled “2013 Deductions” is too specific. Instead label the file “Current Year Taxes.” You’ll simplify your tax return preparation by keeping all tax-related paperwork together, and by using the term “Current Year” you will also have made your year-end filing easier. You will always have a file for current paperwork even if you fall behind in setting up new files. A helpful starting point for the chronic Over-Categorizer is to begin making and using interior file folders. Use general categories to label hanging folders, and then go ahead and create as many interior file folders as feel you need.
Do you keep everything on top of your desk or taped to your monitor, afraid that if you put it away you will almost certainly forget about it? The Out-of-Sight, Out-of-Minder has probably learned from experience that she needs constant visual reminders in order to get things done. What will work best for this organizing style is a combination of a bulletin board or magnetic strip and a hanging filing system or Bella Leather Expanding Tote. Put items that need immediate attention on the bulletin board. Once the work is complete or is awaiting authorization before you can proceed, you can store it in your expanding file until you need to look at it again. Sticky notes in a variety of eye-catching colors and designs can also help you remember phone calls you need to make and meetings you need to attend.
While identifying your File Style will help you create a system that works for you, there are some basic rules of effective file management that apply to just about every style.