Refine Your Office Filing System:
Office filing can be a nightmare. Whether it’s on paper or digitally stored, keeping track of every item and every category quickly gets tiring and confusing. Efficient filing is not difficult, but it does require a certain amount of effort and maintenance, especially when first starting out. It quickly becomes a habit though, and once it does, your work life becomes so much more convenient. Here are some easy guidelines to help you regain control of your office filing.
How to set up and maintain an efficient office filing system
The best filing systems have strong foundations, with a clear and logical structure. However, without proper care, even the best systems get muddled or mismanaged. Follow these easy steps to firstly set up an efficient filing system, and learn how to keep it that way.
Choose a categorisation system
Divide your files into a few broad categories. These could be categories like administrations, finances, clients, human resources, and stock. Once you have these broad categories, subcategorise them. For example, meeting agendas and meeting minutes could be subcategories of your administration category.
Try to keep your categories and sub-categories relevant. There is always some overlap between categories or subcategories in business, so in these instances, make sure to designate the most appropriate category and stick to it, or create a new category entirely.
Separate current work from completed or archived work
It can be frustrating and time-wasting to flip through years of past work to find a current file. Create separate categories or folders for archived work, or designate an entire separate filing cabinet if space allows.
Choose a filing order
Decide how best to organise your categories and subcategories. Typical examples would be alphabetical order, chronological order, or ordered according to key subjects or themes. The order that you choose should be the most accessible and relevant to the type of work you do. Colour coding can also help with your filing order, as it can distinguish between categories or subcategories or indicate specific sections.
Use hanging folders in filing cabinets
Filing systems need storage, and investing in good quality filing cabinets can optimise both your filing system and the space it uses. Most filing cabinets support hanging folders, which is an excellent filing method. Hanging folders are ideal for filing system management, as they are removable and can hold varying amounts and sizes of documents. By placing your documents into a large envelope, you can insert each envelope into a hanging folder for easy removal and replacement without losing its place in the drawer, as the hanging folder acts as a placeholder.
Make sure each file, folder, category and divider is labelled to avoid confusion. Your labels should be short but informative so that the necessary documents can be found with ease. If you use the envelope and hanging folder system, ensure that each envelope label matches the hanging folder label for easy replacement.
Follow a regular and prompt filing schedule
Following a filing schedule may seem strict or unnecessary, but stacks of paper can build up quickly and make finding documents harder in a pinch. Some offices prefer to do all the day’s filing at a certain time every day, while others follow the rule that documents must be filed as soon as they are received or completed.
Review your files annually
In time, files or even whole categories can become irrelevant and just start taking up space. At the end of the year or during your company’s ‘spring clean’, review all your old files and separate those that are outdated. These can be kept in separate archived storage if there is space, or simply thrown out.
Digital filing systems are beneficial as they do not use physical space and do not deteriorate as easily as hard copies. All important documents should have at least one copy, and if that copy is digital, you are saving space as well as paper. This is especially useful in offices that have space constraints or are eco-conscious.
Refine your filing today and enjoy the benefits for years to come
The key to maintaining an efficient filing system is consistency. After a small amount of time and effort, efficient filing becomes routine and falls into place naturally. It may seem like a lot of work now, but a few simple practices and a good investment in filing stationery and storage will set you up with a productive and efficient system.