How to Set Up an Effective Office Filing System

How to Set Up an Effective Office Filing System

Are you drowning under tidal waves of paper?

Does your office look like a hurricane has just swept through it? It’s time to win some battles in the war against paperwork, and an effective filing system is the cornerstone of every effective campaign. Depending on the scale of the disorder in your office, set aside between morning and a day to get your filing system up and running. Your two main enemies are procrastination and lack of planning. But if you follow these stages one by one, you will move methodically towards implementing a new, organized system in your office.

Step 1 – Organized chaos

The first step is to rough-sort your drifts of papers into orderly piles, according to the nature of the documents. The composition of your piles will depend on the kind of work you do. If your main problem is that stack of business correspondence towering in the corner, your task is to devise a logical way of organizing these papers so that you can put your finger on a precise letter within minutes. Choose between organizing your piles according to correspondent, topic, or date order.

If, however, you have a mixed bag of letters, bills, receipts, articles and handwritten notes on scraps of paper, you must sort your papers into their different categories before you can impose a more rigorous order on them. When you’ve completed this stage successfully, you will have several piles of papers stacked up around your office, waiting to be put away out of sight.

Stage 2: Devising the system

Each of your piles of paper represents a category that must be established in your new filing system. How big are the piles now, and how much bigger are they likely to become over the coming year? The answer to this question will determine how to contain your filing system. You might be able to comfortably fit all your business correspondence into a drawer of a small filing cabinet, with subdivisions for each month of the coming year. If this is the case, you can be organized and ready to get back to work in no time flat.

If, however, your piles are more complicated, you will have to think about your system in more depth. Would an expanding cardboard concertina file or two be the best solution to the smallest pile? What about lever arch binders, with subdivisions to denote different categories? If your piles are many and also considerably large, it might be time to invest in a new filing cabinet, and allocate a drawer to each subject.

Transfer your papers methodically into their new receptacles, clearly labelling each section and subsection as you go. The object is to be able to find any piece of paper quickly and easily. You don’t want to find yourself going through each part of your file or filing cabinet looking for the right section. Consequently labels are a must. They’re fiddly to create and set up, but they will save you hours of wasted time over the long term, as they lead you straight to that vital document you thought you’d lost.

Stage 3: Day to day running

Once your backlog of papers is neatly classified and put away, it’s important to safeguard yourself from having to go through the same process again in 6 months. The key to avoiding this eventuality is to break that old habit of tossing your paperwork into a corner, into the dreaded “filing pile” on the floor, or somewhere out of immediate sight. Use your new filing system straight away, and get into the habit of putting each piece of paper into the right place as soon as you’ve finished with it.

Creating a new filing system requires an investment of time and effort, but the benefits are considerable. You not only reduce the panic of being disorganized and never being able to find anything, but you also convey a more polished and professional image, as you effortlessly retrieve documentation whenever you need it.

Creating a new filing system

Leave a Comment