It is well worth taking time to set up an efficient filing system – think of the hours you can waste looking for something that has been stored at random. No one filing system is ideal, choose one that is designed to suit the materials you need to store.
Organizing Your Filing
A filing system has to work in the same way as a computer’s search function. Keywords has to trigger off thought sequences in your brain that lead easily to the place where a paper is filed. Such sequences will be determined by the nature of your work. If you are an export manager with markets in several countries, your basic classification may be along geographic lines, so you might have five big filing cabinets – one for each continent.
If you are a sales manager for a small company producing stationery products, you may divide your customers into two filing cabinets – one for domestic customers, the other for overseas. Each customer will be allocated to their own folder.
Breaking Subjects Down
If you have large categories in your file, it is a good idea to subdivide them to make them more manageable. For example, a development manager who is responsible for overseeing numerous projects could group files by individual project, and then subdivide each project into different sections, each with a separate file.
It is helpful to have a system that indicates immediately, by means of colour or typography, the level or classification of each file. For example, a sales manager could file documents relating to export customers in red files tagged with red labels and those relating to domestic customers in blue files with blue labels. Each label could be annotated with the name of a customer. Whatever system you adopt. It must be easily understood by you and other users; so keep a printed list of the sections, subsections, and other contents for easy reference.
Set aside a regular time for filing – either at the end of every day or at the end of each week. Do not always delegate the task of filing to someone else – it is useful for everyone to update their knowledge of filing system.
Decisions about what to keep and what to throw away are critical, so take an active part in deciding what documents are no longer required and should be discarded, and which are to be kept for future use.
- Go through your files regularly and discard documents that you no longer need.
- Set up a filing system that will grow with you and your business.
- File papers with no obvious home in a folder labelled “Miscellaneous”.