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Say Goodbye to Your Filing Tray…Forever

Say Goodbye to Your Filing Tray…Forever


    The dreaded filing, piling up on your desk, in your filing tray, on top of the filing cabinet, anywhere except where it is meant to be. Why does such a simple task that requires very little brain power cause such distress in most people? Filing is one of the top jobs that most people procrastinate on.

    Of late I have been trying to simplify my life, moving gradually towards a more minimalist approach and in the process I decided to work from a smaller desk. I reckoned that if there was less desk space to put things on and less drawers space to put things in, it would help me to minimize. It has helped to a certain degree. It forced me to purge all my drawers and only keep the essentials. What also happened was that I had to move my small filing box to a different location, about ten steps from my desk — no longer within arm’s reach of my chair.

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    The result — which has rather amazed me: I accumulated a large pile of filing.

    Lesson 1: Keep your filing cabinet/box very close by

    If you can’t file a document with ease when you finish with it, it is more likely that you will place it in a filing tray than stand up and file it correctly. Most of us have busy schedules and standing up to file one piece of paper would be considered a bad use of time, therefore we let the filing accumulate until there is enough to justify the trip to the filing cabinet. The problem with that is that the bigger the pile gets, the bigger the job appears and we avoid and avoid because (in reality) there are more important jobs to be done. By having the filing cabinet within reach, you eliminate this potentiality. It’s easy and quicker to file on the spot so you get into better habits.

    But in order to be able to file swiftly and efficiently, you must adhere to the second lesson…

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    Lesson 2: Label all your files clearly

    This is a part of the puzzle a lot of people resist. Most people will hand-write labels for their hanging files, thinking it is faster and as clear. Sometimes they write with black pen, sometimes with blue, sometimes ALL IN UPPER CASE and sometimes not — and if you are lucky a black marker will be used.

    Even if you have a system for writing all your labels with black marker in ALL IN UPPER CASE, your files will still not be as easy to find as those that have been created by a labeler. A labeler has a clear, consistent typeset. You may argue this until you are blue in the face…but the labeler works. It is well worth the minor investment. When folders are clear and with your cabinet close by, you will be able to file as you go (as long as you don’t have too many files or folders).

    Lesson 3: Purge filing regularly

    It is widely recognized that an overfilled filing cabinet is detrimental to your health. If you are trying to squeeze a document into an overloaded folder which is also in an overloaded filing cabinet, it won’t end well.

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    Set a date and time once every couple of months to purge older documents. Find out local regulations about how long you must keep documents for tax and legal purposes. Minimize the amount of paper you possess and only hold on where absolutely necessary. If your paperwork is weighing you down — you could also try paperless.

    Lesson 4: Explore the possibility of paperless

    It has become quite popular of late to go paperless. You will hear many organizations proudly state that they are a paperless office or a paperless organization. This means that documents are not printed out but rather that documents come in paper format and then are scanned into the computer for filing.

    The challenge with a paperless system is to ensure that the electronic documents are filed for easy retrieval. A clear and simple hierarchical filing system should be used, combined with a strong search facility on your computer.

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    Lesson 5: Keep it simple

    Keep your categories simple and don’t overcomplicate. David Allen recommends a simple A-Z filing system, which works well if you have a lot of filing.

    In my home office I don’t have too many files, so I am happy to file by category. For example, I have a Home file where my insurance documents and facilities documents are filed in separate manilla folders, and a Car file where my car insurance, car taxes and other related documents go. Remember the goal of your system is to have easy and fast retrieval — so see what works best for you.

    Stick to these rules and never stress over an overcrowded filing tray again. A no-stress clutter-free desk awaits you.

    Do you have any filing tips you’d like to share? Feel free to do so in the comments below.

    (Photo credit: 3D Illustration of Information via Shutterstock)

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    Ciara Conlon

    Productivity coach, speaker, blogger and author of Chaos to Control, a Practical Guide to Getting Things Done

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    Last Updated on September 18, 2019

    15 Best Organizing Tips For Office Organization and Getting More Done

    15 Best Organizing Tips For Office Organization and Getting More Done

    You may think that you don’t have time for office organization, but if you really knew how much time that disorganization cost you, you’d reconsider.

    Rearranging and moving piles occasionally doesn’t count. Neither does clearing off your desk, if you swipe the mess into a bin, or a desk drawer.

    A relatively neat and orderly office space clears the way for higher productivity and less wasted time.

    Organizing your office doesn’t have to take days, it can be done a little at a time. In fact, maintaining an organized office is much more effective if you treat it like an on-going project, instead of a massive assault.

    So, if you’re ready to get started, the following organizing tips will help you transform your office into an efficient workspace.

    1. Purge Your Office

    De-clutter, empty, shred, get rid of everything that you don’t need or want. Look around. What haven’t you used in a while?

    Take one area at a time. If it doesn’t work, send it out for repair or toss it. If you haven’t used it in months and can’t think of when you’ll actually need it, out it goes. This goes for furniture, equipment, supplies, etc.

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    Don’t forget about knick-knacks, plants (real or artificial), and decorations – if they’re covered with dust and make your office look shabby, they’re fair game.

    2. Gather and Redistribute

    Gather up every item that isn’t where it belongs and put it where it does.

    3. Establish Work “Zones”

    Decide what type of activity happens in each area of your office. You’ll probably have a main workspace (most likely your desk,) a reference area (filing cabinet, shelves, binders,) and a supply area (closet, shelves or drawers.)

    Place the appropriate equipment and supplies are located in the proper area as much as possible.

    4. Close Proximity

    Position the equipment and supplies that you use most within reach. Things that you rarely use can be stored or put away.

    5. Get a Good Labeler

    Choose a label maker that’s simple to use. Take the time to label shelves, bins, baskets drawers. Not only will it remind you where things go, but it will also help others who may have a need to find, use, or put away anything in your workspace.

    6. Revise Your Filing System

    As we move fully into the digital age, the need to store paper files has decreased.

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    What can your store digitally? Are you duplicating files? You may be able to eliminate some of the files and folders you’ve used in the past. If you’re storing files on your computer, make sure you are doing regular back-ups.

    Here’re some storage ideas for creating a smooth filing system:

    • Create a meeting folder – Put all “items to be discussed” in there along with items that need to be handed off, reports that need to be given, etc. It’ll help you be prepared for meetings and save you stress in the even that a meeting is moved up.
    • Create a WOR folder – So much of our messy papers are things that are on hold until someone else responds or acts. Corral them in a WOR (Waiting on Response) folder. Check it every few days for outstanding actions you may need to follow-up on.
    • Storage boxes – Use inexpensive storage boxes to keep archived files and get them out of your current file space.
    • Magazine boxes – Use magazine boxes or binders to store magazines and catalogs you really want to store. Please make sure you really need them for reference or research, otherwise recycle them, or give away.
    • Reading folder – Designate a file for print articles and documents you want to read that aren’t urgent.
    • Archive files – When a project is complete, put all of the materials together and file them away. Keep your “working folders” for projects in progress.
    • File weekly – Don’t let your filing pile up. Put your papers in a “To File” folder and file everything once a week.

    Learn more tips on organizing your files here: How to Organize Your Files for Better Productivity

    7. Clear off Your Desk

    Remove everything, clean it thoroughly and put back only those items that are essential for daily use.

    If you have difficulty declutter stuff, this Declutter Formula will help you throw away stuff without regretting later.

    8. Organize your Desktop

    Now that you’ve streamlined your desktop, it’s a good idea to organize it.

    Use desktop organizers or containers to organize the items on your desk. Use trays for papers, containers for smaller items.

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    Don’t forget your computer desktop! Make sure the files or images are all in organized folders. I’d recommend you clear your computer desktop everyday before you leave work.

    9. Organize Your Drawers

    Put items used together in the same drawer space, stamps with envelopes, sticky pads with notepads, etc.

    Use drawer organizers for little items – paper clips, tacks, etc. Use a separate drawer for personal items.

    10. Separate Inboxes

    If you work regularly with other people, create a folder, tray, or inbox for each.

    11. Clear Your Piles

    Hopefully with your new organized office, you won’t create piles of paper anymore, but you still have to sort through the old ones.

    Go through the pile (a little at a time if necessary) and put it in the appropriate place or dump it.

    12. Sort Mails

    Don’t just stick mail in a pile to be sorted or rifle through and take out the pieces you need right now. Sort it as soon as you get it – To act, To read, To file, To delegate or hand off. .

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    13. Assign Discard Dates

    You don’t need to keep every piece of paper indefinitely. Mark on files or documents when they can be tossed or shredded.

    Some legal or financial documents must be kept for specified length of time. Make sure you know what those requirements are.

    14. Filter Your Emails

    Some emails are important to read, others are just not that important.

    When you use the filter system to label different types of emails, you know their priority and which to reply first.

    Take a look at these tips to achieve inbox zero: The Ultimate Way to get to Inbox Zero

    15. Straighten Your Desk

    At the end of the day, do a quick straighten, so you have a clean start the next day.

    Bottom Line

    Use one tip or try them all. The amount of effort you put into creating and maintaining an efficient work area will pay off in a big way.

    Instead of spending time looking for things and shuffling piles, you’ll be able to spend your time…well…working and you’ll enjoy being clutter free!

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    Featured photo credit: Alesia Kazantceva via unsplash.com

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