Saturday, February 26, 2011

How Well Are You Managing Your Files?

Good filing practices are critical if one wants to operate effectively and efficiently. Are you the person who can find what you want within minutes, or do you waste time trying to find things that you know are somewhere, but you just can't put your finger on them?

If you fall into the latter category or realise there is room for improvement, spending a few hours getting an efficient filing system into place can be a great step towards boosting your personal efficiency.

The principles of filing are the same whether you are filing stuff in the physical world or in the cyberworld: you need a system that suits your type of business and the activities involved. This begins with a written structure that goes from the general to the specific and is based on keywords that make sense to you. It should also be related to one or more of the following: chronology, logical systems, regions, process, or something else that makes sense within your industry. Here's some examples:

Chronological

If you were an event planner and planned your events by date, it might be logical for you to use a chronological system ie, one that has a folder (or file) for every month of the year. Something occurring in June, 2012 would be under the general file heading "Events 2012" and within that folder you could have "June" and within June, the title of the event eg, "Australian Proctologists Convention". Alternatively, you might have an event-based system with the name of the event as the general heading and you could also include the date eg, "2012 Australian Proctologists Convention".

Logical Systems

When there is a logical pathway that some activity follows, quite often a logical filing system is preferable. A recruitment firm for example, might use a system that follows the recruitment pathway: "Advertising", "Applications Received", "Shortlisting", "Interviews", and "Appointments". Different people whose jobs related to the different steps in the process could access their work in the folder that related to it. An appointments clerk might do all the work for appointments keeping all letters, contracts etc relating to appointments within that folder.

Regions

If you worked for an organisation that provided services in different regions, perhaps a regional filing system would be preferable eg, "Mount Isa Sales", "Townsville Sales", "Melbourne Sales". Everything would be separated by region.

File Naming

As well as having folders that mean something, you also need to have file names that are standardised and indicate what the files contain. This can be done by using codes or full titles. Every document I create has the year at the front. If it is a receipt, it has "Rec" and then the name of the firm eg, "2011 Rec Ilisys Nov" is a receipt issued in November, 2011 by Ilisys, one of my Internet Service Providers.

Conclusion

By having a well thought-out filing structure and a code-based system for naming files, it's easy to find what you want when you want it. No more searching through dozens of folders and hundreds of files. A little time planning at the beginning can save a lot of wasted time later.

What has been your experience with filing systems?

Robin

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