Storage & Supply
- Avoid using manila envelopes for storing items in a filing cabinet, except in the case of maintaining past tax records. A manila envelope for any other reason means "out of sight, out of mind." Which equals wasted space.
- When storing tax information, place all records used in a large manila envelope. This includes: credit card billings, receipts, check registers, bills and any other documentation used in calculating your deductions. A copy of your tax forms also needs to be included. Date the outside of the envelope w/the tax year and file towards the back of one of the filing drawers. (Better yet, use an archive box for storing tax files). This means the oldest year will always be in front. Save tax records for 7 years. At the end of each new 8th tax year just toss the entire envelope in front.Note: Certain types of businesses and professions are required by law to maintain records indefinitely. Check with your local tax attorney for accurateness in this regard for your locale and profession.
- Depending on the amount of papers you need on a regular basis, everyone needs a file cabinet of one size or another. Several vendors make "sturdy hard plastic" portable file cabinets for those who operate out of a "mobile office" or have only a few records to maintain. (See our resource section for product recommendations.)
- When designing a file system stay away from elaborate color schemes. Color enhances this dreaded task for many people and I do recommend using it with certain people. Just remember when using color -- we still need to keep it simple. (See our resource section for product recommendations.)
- Realize that color schemes may give some people an excuse not to file when they run out of the respective color needed. Maybe there was a special of the month that prompted the initial "deal." Make sure you are you willing to pay the regular price.
- If purchase a popular color -- it might be sold out or on back order in the future. Make sure you monitor your stock to avoid running out at an inopportune time. All the time spent waiting for a color means our "filing is piling" -- creating dis-organization!
- When creating any type of file system -- remember to keep it simple. You wouldn't want to build a system in such a confusing manner that requires a road map to find a file.
- Remember 80% of what we file is never even looked at again!
- Color tabs come with color file folders and they are much harder to read. If you are set on using color files -- invest in a pack of clear tabs. (See our resource section for product recommendations.)
- When naming hanging files and interior files, always stick with the first identifying word that comes to mind for that group of papers. Attempts at making it overly sophisticated ensure you won't remember what you called it and you do need to find what you have decided to save. Keep it simple!
- Clarification: think of each hanging file as the family name. Each interior file can be thought of as the kids in that family.
- Name the interior file with an identifying word and write the name on the tab. Now, on the front cover of the interior file, write the "family" name of the hanging file where you are going to place it. Case in point: I have created a hanging file for all information and work I am involved with regarding the National Speakers Association. The hanging file is labeled NSA. Within that hanging file are several interior files. Some of the topics are: National; Chapter; Events; Board meetings etc... Each interior file not only has its" folder labeled appropriately -- it contains the word NSA on the front cover: *NSA. This way anyone using my file system that retrieves an interior file knows exactly where it gets returned to without having to understand the logic of my file system.
- Place all tabs for hanging file folders on the front of the file. The fingers normally approach a file in such a way that if the tab is in front, the interior folder for that file is right there. If the tab is on the back of the file folder, the contents being filed have a greater tendency to slip between one file folder and the next into an open space, aka: the black hole!
- Always, always use an interior folder for the contents of a file. Make sure it is labeled to correspond with the hanging file folder itself. When the contents of a file need to be retrieved, remove the interior folder. NEVER remove the hanging file itself. After all, this is the landmark designating where the file actually lives. This simple subtle task will avoid lost files.
- Manila folders have several scored lines on the bottom, these are used when an overabundance of paper in the interior file would hinder the visibility of the label on the folder. Fold the scored area as necessary to expand the size of the folder.
- Avoid filing pocket folders, (the type you receive in workshops etc...), they impede the visibility of the interior filer folder name as well as the tab on the hanging file folder. Instead, remove the contents you need from the pocket folder and staple the paper together before placing it in the interior folder.
- Never use paper clips when filing. They have a tendency to get caught on another paper that is a different subject matter within the interior files. Staple multiple sheets of similar topics together that are sharing the same interior folder.
- Make sure you use "nouns" when filing not adjectives. What is "old stuff" anyway? Note: avoid using a title of "miscellaneous." You need to make a decision about that paper, even if it means tossing it.
- As an alternative, if you are more of the creative sort" you may have a natural abhorrence to filing cabinets. Utilize a cubbyhole organizing system on the wall or even on your desktop. These organizers can be found in almost every office supply store. They are either made of particle board or the same metal material used for filing cabinets. These cubby systems allow you to visually see anything you want in entirety. (See our resource section for product recommendations.)
- Find out what the policy is in your office for the retention of records. Someone needs to make this decision or the tendency is to store everything indefinitely. This can add up to incredible expenses and lost space in a relatively short time.Note: people have a tendency to invest in more file systems and/or archive boxes for offsight storage, rather than weed through papers and make decisions. You will eventually need to increase the square footage of rented space thus incurring even more costs --all because no one took the time to analyze the data and make a decision!
- Designate an expiration date for as much of your filed material as possible. Maintain consistency.For example, use a red pen in the upper left-hand corner and code a specific expiration date on the material. Some people are hesitant in assigning this date for fear of error in judgement. They have a tendency to "save everything because they got burnt once." You must decide to make a decision. If you are in doubt and need some confidence in this type of decision making -- just add 4 months to the date to be safe.
Note: Next time you are in that file and run into a file with an expiration date that has passed -- toss it! Avoid taking the time to re-read, or re-analyze your decision. Trust yourself! Saving everything can get extremely costly rather quickly!
- If there are numerous users of your filing system, designate a "file guardian." This person will be in charge of re-filing all information, as well as logging who has what for how long. This will greatly reduce the chances of mis-filing, as well as reduce the time wasted on searching for files that are in use by others.
- When creating/organizing a file system, segregate active files from archive files. Use a "destroy date" on as many archive boxes as possible.
- When storing archive boxes make sure the contents are labeled on all 4 sides of the box as well as the top lid. This will expedite the retrieval process as well as ensure that the contents will be visible from any angle, no matter who puts the box back.
- Invest in hanging "box" files for categories that contain larger amounts of data. As a general rule of thumb, if a file grows larger than one inch, it most likely needs to be further subdivided in order to enhance rapid retrieval. (See our resource section for product recommendations.)
- After using files during the course of the day, return the file folder to the To File basket. You wouldn't want to leave them hanging around where they could potentially get buried with other projects.
- Schedule filing time on a weekly basis. Stick with the same time on a regular day. This will allow you to create a new and positive habit in maintaining your files. The task will most likely take you 30 minutes a week or less.
- If you have a tendency to save relevant articles, beware that you are not saving an entire magazine or newspaper for this purpose. Take the time to cut out the article, otherwise this will quickly become a "space gobbler" in your file system. Note: if you stuff an entire paper or magazine in a file folder chances are you will forget "what" you were saving anyway!
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