Organization is one of the building blocks to success because it keeps you focused, makes you more attractive to employers, and simplifies your everyday tasks. If you’re a small business owner, being organized makes you more appealing to customers.
A significant struggle today is that many completely ignore creating an organizational system simply because of the initial time investment. In today’s digital world, many find it challenging to organize electronic and physical files efficiently. If you’ve ever placed a client on hold or kept your boss waiting until you find what you need, it is time to restructure your filing system.
To help, we’ve outlined some key tricks to create a better filing system for you and your office.
1. Declutter Existing Files
The first step in creating an effective filing system is to comb through what you already have and discard unnecessary papers. Keeping papers you will never use again is a waste of your time in addition to space.
2. Decide How to Organize
Some individuals prefer digital versions while others still rely on paper files. Determine which type of organizational system works best for your personality. If your career requires both, create a system that will help guide you to the right filing option when looking for specific papers or information.
3. Create File Categories
When you create your digital and physical filing systems, start with broad categories. Invoices, bills, accounts receivable, and other finance-related documents should go under a “finance” category. Conversely, all your employee offer letters and freelancer engagement letters—even though they’re tied to your finances—should go under an “employment” category.
Starting with this broad approach allows you to see how all your files are interconnected. In fact, you can create a folder hierarchy that starts with these larger categories. From there, you can create smaller folders that go within each larger one.
4. Subcategorize Your Categories
Once you’ve put all of your digital and print files into large categories, break them down into smaller folders. This will help you find necessary documents with speed and efficiency. Review the documents under the “finance” category to identify where the commonalities are and create subcategories such as accounts receivable and bills.
5. Color Code Your Folders
Once you have all your files subcategorized into different folders, make sure they’re easy to spot and retrieve. When it comes to physical files, use folders that allow for color coding and create an index for easy reference that identifies each category.
6. Get Rid of Old Files
Even if you follow the above advice, your filing system may still get complicated. This happens when you keep old files for much longer than you actually need them.
While keeping documents on file is important, don’t be afraid to discard them, both physically and digitally. Create a rule for each broad category. How long should you keep your finance documents? How long should you keep your employment documents? Set a standard and then follow that standard, getting rid of old files when necessary. This ensures your organization never gets disorganized.