Many people have a tendency to include a filing system that is largely accidental. At some point, they will have more papers than what they could store on their desk, which led them to start squirreling them away in empty spaces, like cabinets, drawers and so on. In some cases, — unlucky same may say, you end up inherit a filing system, like sitting on a new job, and an office packed with papers everywhere, literally.
Often, with these paperwork piling up, the question of how to tame your file cabinet and make it a useful storage and reference tool for other things instead of being a paper orphanage?
Assess Your Choice: What would you expect from your filing system? Whether you are looking at personal file cabinets in your home office or a bank of cabinets in your traditional office — before you lay your hands on your file system, you will need to find out what exactly it is you want from the system and why you’re tired of its current state enough to be getting help from a guide to molding it into better shape.
- Are you finding documents easily?
- Is file replacement and removal easy to do or you have to force them back in?
- Are the files within cabinets the latest and most frequently used, or useful currently?
- Are there any spaces left for the files currently on hand?
While some issues are easily resolved, it’s still an ongoing and never-ending problem for many. If you find it hard to read handwritten labels on files, you can simply remedy that with a label maker and a free afternoon. Harder issues will require more time, like having a little too little storage space for your files and paperwork. So, before you checkout on your order for five new file cabinets, you’ll have to go through something first.
“Exorcist” Your File Cabinet: Now, you’ve looked over your cabinets and listed down the reasons why you’re unhappy with them, but before you actually go the distance, you have to dig deep and get rid of the dead weight. There exist two kinds of file cabinet “exorcism”, where you shred old and unnecessary files on the first phase while you sort out and move necessary but old files into deeper storage on the second — deep storage can mean any separate file cabinet in the basement, the records room at your workspace or any place that’s away from your main office. So, what qualifies for the shredding category?
Candidates for Shredding:
- Utilities Bills – It’s 2016 and you have your latest bill in your hand and the information on it is correct and is update, so why are you still keeping bills from 2002 even?
- Bank & ATM receipts – Everything can be found online now, even your bank or ATM statements and receipts, so why still keep those annoying little pieces of paper.
Candidates For Deep Storage:
- Bank Statements – Keep these documents for at least 3 years, as most people store them as precautions and keep them for the same 7 year span they retain tax documents.
- Personal Documents – Birth certificates, marriage licenses, and similar documents should be kept in deep storage — and this means keep them safe at all cost — preferably a waterproof and fireproof location.
Create A Workflow: Now you’ve find out the things that you would like to see changed — better labels needed, poorly designed cabinets, and more — and you’ve made space for necessary files in your old cabinets. The reason of a workflow is to ensure that you won’t be spending a whole lot of time just to beat your file system back to shape. A workflow, in this case your file workflow can be anything — it all depends on your need of your office and the size of the files you’re handling, but for simplicity’s sake, we’re just gonna assume that you’re not the curator for a large corporation.
A mainstream file workflow for a small to medium office might look similarly like this:
Daily: Clear inbox & sort mails. Make sure to file or shred new documents by the end of a day, everyday.
Monthly: Shred any old and unnecessary statements as new ones come in. Once a month, allocate a few minutes to go through the labels on your file cabinets and determine if any old files that could be moved to deep storage. Like most businesses, January is a critical month for being merciless about what ends up in deep storage, lest you start every new year with dumps of “poos” from last year.
Quarterly: In addition to your monthly assessment, you should also spend some time looking over your deep storage for any files that have outlived their usefulness.
Yearly: Every once a year, you’ll delve into files for information related to taxes. This is actually an excellent time to be ruthless in your scraping. Feed old files to the shredder, extract files related to projects that are worthless and no longer necessary. Any old bills, receipts and so on dated more than 5 years and aren’t related to your taxes and had somehow magically escaped your earlier in the year should be shredded.
Comply To The Workflow: By only thinking about exercising and intending to eat better, you don’t lose weight, and you certainly won’t get a tight and easy to control file system by only wanting to finally empty your inbox and get your hands dirty, sorting out your files. Just like how your car would be treated after an accident, it’s wrecked, and you need time to beat it back into shape. You need to spend time in labeling folders, and make decisions about what will be shredded and what to be stored in deep storage. Once the dirty and tough work is done, all you simply have to do is follow the workflow you’ve made and whatever documents and files will naturally find where they belong and essentially tread themselves to the shredder when they’re no longer needed.
While it may take some time to get used too, using a file workflow is a habit that reaps reward — you’ll find it much easier to use a filing system and your file cabinet won’t fall victim to unnecessary/useless file ever again.