Filing is an important skill!
Have you ever kept a client or your boss waiting on the phone while you've searched the piles of papers on your desk for an important document? If you have, then your boss and your client may not have a good opinion of you, because in a key encounter, you've let them down.
And if it's your job to help people, how much of other people's time are you wasting if you can't find the documents and papers you need, when you need them?
You owe it to yourself to file effectively, however boring this may seem. Imagine how much more impressive it would have been if – when asked – you'd smiled, accessed a well-organized filing system, immediately found the document, and quickly given the answer!
Even in the age of email and the Internet, we still deal with many paper documents and files. There's a flurry of data pouring in from all directions that we need to process and, usually, store to retrieve later. We want to be able to lay our hands on the information we need – at the right moment, when we need it – so it can be used for further analysis or report writing, or perhaps for creating a presentation.
All too often, though, we waste our own time (and often the time of other people) searching for data that's actually sitting somewhere on our desk or in an office filing cabinet. This adds to our stress, and makes the task of putting the data to use more difficult than it ought to be. So we need to get more organized and efficient with our file management if we're going to get our work done in a timely manner.
When you receive a document from a co-worker, vendor, or customer, it's tempting to "just put it away" in a pile on your desk or drawer for the time being. "Hmm. looks interesting, but I'll take a closer look at this later, when I've got more time." Sound familiar? After a while, many such documents build up, leading to a lot of clutter. It's highly unlikely that you'll ever find time to go back and get all of that information organized, especially considering that you're usually under pressure with other things.
You can spend hours of precious time searching for documents that you've filed away somewhere, because it's easy to forget where you put it – or even to forget that you have the document in the first place. So how can you go about simplifying your work? Get better at managing files.
Effective filing boils down to this: store the information in folders – by category, and in a sequence that makes sense to you.
Here are some tips to help manage your files:
Avoid overfilling folders – If you have a large number of files in one folder, or a large number of subfolders in a main folder, break them into smaller groups (subfolders or sub-subfolders). For instance, you can divide a folder called "Business Plan" into subfolders called "BP2008," "BP2009," and "BP2010." Likewise, you can divide a folder for a client named Delta Traders into subfolders named "Delta Traders sales presentations" and "Delta Traders contracts." The idea is to place every file into a logical folder or subfolder, rather than have one huge list of files.
Having said this, there is usually little point in creating a folder for fewer than about five documents.
Take these approaches further by customizing your file management. This can help you prioritize your work, which can lead to better efficiency.
For any system to be useful and effective, it must also be convenient for you. To some extent, this depends on the nature of your business or the work that you do. So, although there's no "one size fits all" solution to file management, you will likely profit by using some of these file management tips, and by customizing them in a way that best serves your own needs.
Are you losing too much time searching through the clutter on your desk for files that you need? And when you're under pressure, can you retrieve information quickly and easily?
Spending precious time looking for documents can take the pleasure out of any kind of creative work you might be doing – and it adds to your stress levels as well. Simple good file management habits can hugely simplify your working life!
We know this is boring, but you know you need to do it!
Clear an hour in your schedule somewhere in the next week, and set your filing system up!
This site teaches you the skills you need for a happy and successful career; and this is just one of many tools and resources that you'll find here at Mind Tools. Subscribe to our free newsletter, or join the Mind Tools Club and really supercharge your career!
This ensures that you don’t lose your plan.
Please enter your username or email address and we'll send you a reminder.
Your log in details have been sent to the email account you registered with. Please check your email to reset your login details.
Please check your Inbox, and click on the link in the email from us. We can then send you the newsletter.