So, how’s your filing system? Do you ever have trouble finding a specific document again once you’ve stashed it away? You may even have three or four files that contain the same information but are labeled differently – what a mess! The frantic pace of daily business and life tends to create a temptation to just complete each task as quickly as possible at the expense of order and process–a situation with the potential for escalating problems in the future.
Start with fixing the problem
What is causing the downfall your filing system? How many hours a week do you waste searching for papers? Chances are it wasn’t much of a “system” to begin with. More likely, it was just a random assortment of individual files that really had no connection to each other. To create a truly effective filing system, you need to start with a plan. Block out some time–an appointment with yourself to get organized.
Create File Categories
Look at your current filing system (or that pile of paper that you’ve been meaning to file for months) and start sorting your documents into broad categories. “Finances” might be one; “Client Projects” could be another. At this point, we’re not focusing on the detail of your filing system. Quite frankly it doesn’t matter if it’s a credit card bill or a bank statement right now. We’ll worry about those distinctions later on. Every business is different, so your filing system will be different, too.
Pick one of your “major category” piles and let’s sort through it again. This time, think about breaking your paper into smaller subcategories. For example, your “finances” pile could be divided into savings account, checking account, credit card account etc.
Be specific; don’t just say that they are “bank statements”. Determine which account they belong to and break each out into a separate pile. We don’t want any files “bunking” with other files – everyone gets his or her own separate folder.
Go through your filing cabinets and shred anything that’s out of date or no longer relevant to your business. If you’re worried you might one day need four-year old notes from a client project, then scan the originals and throw out the paper files to make more room.
The one universal element to organization is the need to maintain it on an ongoing basis. This is not a once-a-year or even once-a-month activity. It’s something that should be maintained each day. If a new category comes up, create a new file or file drawer for it immediately.
Most of us know how important organization is, but I hope this reminder inspires those who need to pause and get organized.