Three Tips for Better Organized Paper Filing

Published on: Author: Anne Langton

As a professional organizer, I get asked many questions on how to set up the perfect filing system. In actuality there really is no ONE system that works for everyone.  Sometimes trial and error prove to be a huge part in coming up with the appropriate system.  I have however discovered some things that definitely DO work when constructing an effective filing system whether for the business or residential environment.

1.   DITCH THE “MISCELLANEOUS” LABEL

We’ve all been there….somehow you just can’t seem to come up with a suitable folder name so you label it “Miscellaneous”.  Doing so inevitably destines its contents to be forever ignored and untouched.  When filing, documents should be organized by their “retrieval” trigger label.  In other words an accurate reminder for when you need to FIND a certain document.  Since labeling a folder “Miscellaneous” contains no retrieval triggers it therefore becomes a useless label.

2.   KEEP GENERAL CATEGORIES LIMITED

A common practice in creating a filing system is to “label as you go” where a folder is created when documents need to be filed.  By doing so there really is no system and the files labels can just go on and on ad infinitim.  By setting up no more than 5 broad categories ahead of time, filing and retrieval is made easier and more systematic.  For example, a business may have the following categories…

  • Business Operations
  • Clients
  • Marketing
  • Resources

Each category will have subdivisons but all fall under the general categories listed above.  This works in personal as well as business files

3.  TREAT YOUR VIRTUAL FOLDERS THE SAME

Once you’ve figured out what 4 or 5 general categories work for you, why not have the same categories set up in your email as well as your physical files?   Remember the first rule of thumb when organizing…simpler is better!