When you move into a new workspace, setting up your filing system may seem like an overbearing task. Here are some tips and tricks that will make the task of setting up your files quick and easy.
First, sit at your workstation for a few minutes and figure out where you will instinctively look for things. Where do you naturally reach for paperclips, stapler, etc.? Everyone will approach this differently, and what works for one person will not work for another. By taking a few minutes to sit down at your primary workspace and reach for equipment, supplies and files, you will establish the ideal spot for each of those items.
Once you know where you will naturally look for information, you need to determine whether an alphabetical, numerical or subject filing system will work best for you. Do you search for things according to the client’s name? The category (i.e. financial, marketing, expenses) or by purchase order or reference number? This is a really critical step because it will determine how you will lay out your filing system. You should do this before you buy anything for your filing system!
Next, determine your storage needs. You will need to consider if you have a large number of files that you access on a daily basis or do you only access your files weekly? The answers to these questions will determine if you need a desktop file holder, a two drawer filing cabinet close to or under your desk, or a four drawer lateral file across the room. There are many options that exist today and you should choose carefully. Always allow for growth when looking at filing cabinets. Buy something to accommodate twice the amount of files that you have now. This will limit the number of times you will have to reorganize your filing system.
The next step will be to invest in a good labeling system for clarity and easy access. Just as obvious as it sounds, you will save a great deal of time if the labels are easy to read. There are a lot of label companies out there that provide templates that integrate with the most popular word processing software. Another option is to invest in one of the small label making systems that can also print out individual mailing labels. Choose the item that will work best for your situation and possibly perform double duty.
Yeah!… You are now ready to purchase file folders. You may want to consider purchasing colored hanging folders with the plastic label tabs included and plain manila file folders. Colored hanging file folders work great for two reasons: (1) easily available and (2) ease of recognition for categories. An example: you can put all of your clients in yellow hanging folders, blue folder contain financial information and red is for marketing, etc. This will help you determine exactly where you should be looking for a particular file.
Keep you subject categories broad to allow for new files as you grow, and to eliminate the need to upgrade or reorganize your filing system on a regular basis. These great tips and more can be found in the article Mastering Your Filing System by Jill Chongva.