- Posted by Alaia Williams
- On August 20, 2014
I don’t know anyone who LOVES sorting paper (honestly) – not even me! What I do love is having a system in place and knowing that I can find what I need when I need it. It definitely makes me feel like a confident, competent and savvy business owner.
If you’re tired of shuffling papers around, here’s my super quick bare-bones guide for how to organize files.
Separate your papers into piles so you can get a sense of what you have – and how much of it you have!
What do you need to keep and what’s unnecessary? If it isn’t adding value to your business, you won’t need to reference it again, and you don’t need it for tax or legal purposes, get rid of it! Yes, going overboard might be a bad idea, but most people I meet are holding on to way more paper than they really need. Got questions? Email me.
Now that you know what’s leftover, how will you organize it? Hopefully by now, you’re seeing some logical categories take shape. Use hanging files for categories and file folder for subcategories. Think of your filing system like an outline for a paper, or the way titles are organized at a bookstore.
Color code (optional)
If you’re visual and like a lot of color and variety in your system, try color coding (green for finances, blue for admin, red for contracts, yellow for resources, etc). Before you try this out, know how many categories you plan to have and where you’ll get your folders. Colored folders are typically a little more expensive than standard manila folders and the sets typically include no more than four or five colors.
Label your folders. Be consistent so you don’t go batty every time you open your file cabinet. Some people prefer using a label maker or printing labels from their computer – until they run out of tape or ink. I prefer to handwrite my labels (neatly), so that nothing delays me from filing that paper away. All I need is a pen. If you’re concerned about illegible writing, go with one of the other methods, but make sure to keep supplies stocked.
And now, the big job (I actually find the other parts kind of fun – and easy). If you’ve followed the other steps first, this won’t take you as long as it will if you don’t set up your system first. Put your papers in the right folders and then pop the folders in their drawer and you’re done!
File regularly and it won’t become a pain in the neck. Daily is obviously best if you’ve got a lot of paper coming at you, weekly is fine and monthly works too – if you actually DO it and you don’t have important action items hiding in your piles.
When paperwork crosses my path, I pull out action items and stick them in a place where I can keep track of them. Then, I put everything else in a folder to be filed. I deal with as little paper as possible, so filing monthly is just fine for me. What will work for you?
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