#WorkSmarter Series – Organizing Your Business Files
On a daily basis we collect piles of paper. Keeping this information helps us only if we can find it when we need it. Today we’re going to look how to organize a file cabinet so we can find anything we have quickly and easily.
Tools to gather:
- trash can
- recycle bin
- shredder bin (for sensitive items)
- sticky notes
- manila folders
- hanging files
- hanging file tabs & inserts*
- label maker**
*Hanging files are easy to re-use. However, you may want fresh file tabs and inserts. Check for these at your local office supply store. They’re inexpensive.
**Some people like to use labels that are printed from their computer. I find that process adds a lot of extra steps. Label makers let you print each label as it’s needed. Consider investing in one. Good label makers start around $40.
A Clear Filing System
Messy files make it harder to work. The goal for our file cabinets is to have everything neat, easy to read, and easy to find. Here are tips to make that happen.
Tip 1. Put ALL hanging file tabs on one side. (See Fig 1.) This method lets your eye follow a straight line as you search. The traditional way of spreading tabs out makes it easy to miss one, especially if you’ve added a file and not repositioned your tabs. (See Fig 2.)
So, if you sit to the left of your files, put all your hanging tabs on the left. Vise versa if you sit to the right. If you have to stand to reach your files, choose a side and stick with it.
Tip 2. Put ALL manila folders in one position. What? Yes, one position. This also saves your eyes, and it makes your cabinets incredibly neat. If you don’t think this is important, try a section. You’ll be amazed at how much calmer you’ll feel looking at files with clean lines.
Since standard manila folders come in left, right, and middle positions, here are some tricks for not wasting any.
- Fold left or right tabbed folders backward to make the opposite side.
- I use left tabs (and right tabs turned to the left) for my business files. I save my center-tabbed folders for personal files. (These are kept in a separate cabinet.)
Tip 3. Work in time blocks. Set aside a block of time to work on your files. A full morning or afternoon is good. It’s great to organize work files near major holidays because many people leave for vacation. The can make the office calmer and provide quiet work time for your project.
Tip 4. Work in sections. Organizing small sections at a time helps us make progress and not feel overwhelmed. Also, if an emergency strikes and we have to stop, we won’t return to a pile of half-finished files. To work in sections…
- Group your files by type. See last week’s post for the types of files you want to have.
- Taking one group at a time, get your tabs and hanging folders in the right position
- Clean out old folders as you go. Don’t get bogged down in debating whether you need to keep something. If you can’t decide immediately, place it in a review pile with a sticky note that states what you need to do. Ex. Pull out potential product ideas & pitch remaining notes. Notice this is written with specific action verbs—Pull & pitch. Writing “Review” doesn’t tell you the outcome. Write with the end results in mind and you’ll move faster.
- Enjoy the process.
Making It Work – Have fun with your organizing time. Turn on music (quietly if you work in an open area). Have a good beverage and get to work. You’ll be amazed how quickly it goes once you get started.Find what you need when you need it. How to Organize a File Cabinet. #WorkSmarter #Organizing Click To Tweet