All right, the title’s a misnomer – no one’s ever really going to have fun with filing. Another thing that isn’t fun, though, is not being able to find an important document when you need it. Filing is the task no one ever wants to do, and yet it’s one of the most important jobs in the office.
Leaving documents in a pile on your desk is simply sloppy, and wasting time looking for a file when a little organization would have made it easy to find is counterproductive. Plus, it makes you look bad.
It can seem overwhelming, dealing with all the paper you have to handle (and we do still have to handle paper, even in this electronic age), but it’s equally overwhelming spending hours looking for something, so you need to learn how to manage it as it comes in.
It’s really not all that hard. You simply need to arrange information by category, in folders, in a sensible sequence. Here are some tips:
Color code your folders – use one color for vendors, another for customers, another for internal personnel, and so on. That way, you can tell at a glance what the folders relate to.
Keep documents that are related together. If you file things under broad categories, like “spreadsheets” “correspondence,” and “projects,” you’ll have to go through a lot of documents to find what you need. Instead, file everything that has to do with a specific project in one folder. Avoid overfilling folders, though – for example, if you’ve done a lot of work for a particular client, you can break it down into “[Name of Client] Spreadsheets,” “[Name of Client] Correspondence” etc. The goal, obviously, is to make things easy to find.
Don’t feel that you have to save everything. Take a look at everything that comes across your desk, of course, and if it’s relevant, then keep it. You might have to take a few seconds to make the decision whether to file it or forget it, but doing so will help you later on. Having a ton of documents that you don’t really need makes it harder to find what you do need, so get good at separating the wheat from the chaff.
Separate work in progress from work that’s completed. Devote a drawer in your file cabinet to work that’s ongoing. Evaluate the contents regularly – every week or so – and move inactive files into another drawer.
There’s no one approach that’s going to work for every type of business or for every person. How you file, and what you file, will depend to a degree on the type of business you’re working in, and the type of work that you do in your particular division. These tips are just guidelines, and they’re meant to be adaptable to whatever method suits your individual needs. The main thing is to develop some type of system, so that even when you’re under pressure, or your desk is messy, you can still put your hands on the information that you need easily and quickly.
Just Do It
Set up your filing system, and then start filing regularly. You’ll find that once you have a system in place, filing will be considerably easier than you ever thought possible. In fact, it’s likely you’ll find that just an hour or so each week will be enough time to get the job done. Done the right way, filing doesn’t have to be stressful or hugely time consuming, and you’ll soon be able to get back to more exciting, fulfilling tasks.