How to Make the Most of your Filing System
If you’ve got piles of paper stacking up around your office, your countertops, and other available flat surfaces, chances are that your filing system isn’t working for you. Filing is a tricky game these days where there are so many options for paperless and electronic files, but so much still comes in hard copy form. You could spend a seeming eternity sorting things out between the computer files and the paper files and in the mail that never stops. And if your system is working for you, it’s likely you’re drowning in a sea full of paper. What can be done?
- Reevaluate your system. If your papers aren’t making it into your filing system, there’s a reason for it. Perhaps you don’t have a filing system. Or maybe you have one but it’s so full of old papers that getting in and out of it is cumbersome and not worth the effort. Or, are you worried that if you put the paper in a drawer, it will be lost to you, never to be found again? Take some time to identify what it is about your files that is causing you to avoid using them. Once you figure this out, you can start to create a better system for yourself.
- Work with what you’ve got. What I mean by this is, take a look at the actual papers that come into your home and pick a system that supports the flow of these papers. Don’t pick the latest filing system from the Container Store because it promises to organize your whole life. It very well could, but if your paper flow doesn’t really look like the categories that come in a pre-set system, it’s likely that system won’t be successful for you. If you manage most of your files online, go with a simple paper filing system. If you prefer all your papers be hard copy, then you’ll need a more robust system.
- Label your files with titles that are meaningful to you. Don’t be scared to label your files unconventionally. Judith Kolberg reminds us that our files are our own and we can name them whatever we like. She has an activity called the Muttering Game where you mutter what comes to mind as you sort your papers and the mutterings lead to you to ‘real’ labels for each folder. If you don’t think of your Toyota Camry as “Automobile” because her name is “Betsy” then you should really be labeling that folder “Betsy”. Don’t try to make your system look a certain way because you think it should. Make it work for you and how you think.
- Don’t be afraid to tweak your system. After implementing a new system, you’re bound to find aspects of it that work for you and other parts that really don’t. If there are things that you thought would work but didn’t turn out how you thought, that’s perfectly fine! We don’t know what will work until we try. Stick with your system few a few weeks then reevaluate and make changes. Don’t abandon it completely, just change the small things that are getting in your way. As time goes on, you’ll end up with a system perfectly designed for YOU!