Once a proper filing system is established, filing your documents well so that you don’t waste time searching is quick and easy. A few good filing practices will keep everything that you need organized and accessible. The last thing you want, when you’re speaking to a client, is to keep them waiting on the phone while you search for a document!
You owe it to yourself to save as much time as you can, for yourself as well as for your clients. Not only does a good filing system help you manage your time better, you can also manage the information more efficiently. It will ensure you are up to date with all the information that is needed for your interactions with clients, vendors and customers.
In an ideal world we would all be using a document management software in order to keep our offices paperless and make document management hassle-free, but as most of us are not in that position, we are sharing our top tips – and they’re not rocket science:
1. Save only what is essential
All too often, people tend to make the mistake of saving every document that comes their way, rather than being selective and only saving what they need.
You may get tons of mail at your office, hundreds of emails everyday and your drawers may be overflowing with stacks of papers already. If you are at this point right now, assign a day or two every week to get rid of the documents you don’t need so that you can begin saving and organizing the ones you do. The first step to organizing is reducing.
Of course, we would recommend bringing in an experienced third party to help you do this (an outsourced PA for example!) If you are going to tackle this on your own though, here’s how: Divide and conquer by collecting all documents (physical or digital) into folders, according to subject. Tackle one folder at a time, and for each document, decide whether you may possibly need it a few months down the line. If you don’t then get rid of it, you’re unlikely to regret it.
If you can’t come to a decision about a document, have someone else take a look. The pile/list should reduce to a manageable size and you can now begin filing.
2. Name your files and folders consistently
Name your files and folders in a consistent way that makes them easy to access later. It’s a good idea to divide your main folder into separate sub-folders for your customers/clients, your vendors and your partners or co-workers. Create subfolders within these, ideally in the same format (same headings etc.) for each so that it is easy to scan. Try and make each folder look unique, with a recognizable shortened name, so that you can recognize it at a glance when you need it. Make sure if you are filing documents such as invoice by month, that the titles are preceded with a number, 01. 02. 03. Etc. to ensure they are listed in the correct chronological order.
3. File immediately
One of the best habits you can develop is to try and file documents immediately as soon as they come in. Don’t download them to your desktop or downloads folder, or put them in a tray to be filed later.
Make sure your filing cabinet – whether paper or digital – is at hand so that you can quickly and easily file. If your files are in the cloud, download these folders to your device so that you have easy instant access without going online every time. Piles of ‘to be filed’ documents tend to overflow quickly and become unmanageable. Timely filing is essential for your sanity!
4. Keep your filing system simple
You won’t usually need more than a single drawer to save all your paper files and folders at work. The average self-employed person or office employee can save all of their files efficiently in one drawer with a simple filing system using alphabetical order. The same goes for your digital files, keep it simple and clean.
5. Try to stop printing everything
One of the easiest ways to let your paper documents get out of hand is by printing everything. Keep a check on the number of documents you print. Don’t print every email or document you receive, and remember you don’t need to file a document both physically and digitally.
Hopefully following the tips above will make your life at work a lot easier. You will save time, lower your stress and generally spend less time on boring chores, and so long as you get organized and stay on top of it, you’ll be fine.
And don’t forget, if you already have overwhelming piles of documents that you’re tearing your hair out over, you can get in touch with our team. We can help you bring them down to manageable size, and get you started on your efficient filing system habits.