This story first appeared in the October 2000
issue of Startups
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Paper is the chief nemesis of home office professionals; it
seems to come in faster than it goes out. The best way to control
it is to learn how to deal with it, including how to file it.
Filing skills are easy to learn, yet vital to saving time and
maintaining productivity. After all, the information in your files
is useful only if you can find the papers you need within minutes.
Here are several ways to save time when filing:
1. File piles of paper in hanging folders
and manila folders. Label the hanging folder with a main category
and label the interior manila folders with subcategories. Limit the
number of manila folders within each hanging folder to four.
2. If a manila folder topic expands to
overflowing, then you need to upgrade it to a hanging folder.
Transfer the papers to other manila folders, and place them inside
a hanging folder.
3. Use colored labels and tabs to
differentiate between various letters of the alphabet or between
categories. If you're truly motivated by color, use
multicolored hanging and manila folders. You could use green for
financial records and red for hot projects, for example.
4. Be consistent about placing all hanging
file folder tabs either in the front or back of hanging folders,
and stagger the tabs.
5. Use third-cut manila folders as much as
possible. Alternate between using manila folders with left, middle
and right tabs.
6. Either file your papers alphabetically
(ideal for client records), by category, or by number (for years,
invoice numbers, etc.). Alphabetize the hanging folders within each
category. If you want to keep your filing system simple, keep the
categories of files you use most often in the front section of file
cabinet drawers. (This is common sense, yet I find many clients
don't do this.)
7. Go through your files at least twice
each year and purge papers you know you'll never refer to
8. Use hanging notebooks as an alternative
to hanging and manila folders. A notebook with tabs attached fits
in a letter-size file cabinet. Push the tabs in and it becomes a
9. Label your file folders with an
electronic labeler or by hand. The labels don't have to be
perfect, just legible.
10. Reduce your paper files significantly
by using a scanner.
Home office expert Lisa Kanarek is the founder of HomeOfficeLife.com and the
author of Organizing Your Home Office For Successand 101 Home Office Success Secrets.