Organize Office Files

Keeping your files organized can be as easy as remembering to take lunch. Follow simple steps to keep your files in a row.

Everyone knows the old saying "cleanliness is next to godliness" and the same goes for organization in your office. Today, people do business in every kind of space you can imagine""from traditional business suites and home-based offices to cubicles and converted closets. But no matter where these offices are, they all have one thing in common: files. And organization allows them to operate more efficiently.

Start with a general list of file categories. It should be comprehensive, yet it doesn't need to be complete""client and personal files, receipts, receivables and payables, is a good example. From here you have a good foundation for your file system.

Gathering up all your paperwork, notes, mail and odds and ends is the next step. Take the time and space you need to separate the papers into your general categories. This will give you a good idea of what your needs really are, as well as how you can reconfigure your present system.

At this point you may think to yourself, "This is more chaos than my precious piles of papers. At least I had some idea of where things were." But you're well on your way to a new efficiency. Once you have your documents divided up, it's easy to finish this seemingly endless project. Now is the fun part.

Arm yourself with colored files, labels and/or pens""whatever it takes to help you remember what goes where. Page by page, as you work through your stacks of stuff and create new files there are only a few of guidelines to keep in mind.

Think logically. You'll have to find this stuff later, so be sure to take note where you're putting it. Title files with words that will jog your memory and don't abbreviate. Alphabetize your file cabinet and strictly keep it in order.

Feel free to get detailed, but don't over do it. It's a good idea to have separate files for all your credit card accounts. It's a bad idea to have separate files for one-time transactions""don't be afraid to use a miscellaneous file for those items.

Don't save what you don't need. A pack rat will argue that you need it all, you can find a use for everything. The truth is, it might not be worth it to you to save printed copies of all your memos or e-mails. Be honest with yourself. A good yardstick is a year cut off. If you haven't or won't use it in a year, out it goes.

With your new and improved file system set up, you may think you're though the worst of it. If you do, you're wrong. File upkeep can be your biggest challenge. Don't waste all your hard work by not keeping things in order.

Start an inbox to stack papers that need to be filed and file regularly. This doesn't have to be every day, but it should be on a regular basis. Waiting too long to file is the biggest organization wrecker around.

When you go to file a piece of paper ask yourself where you'll find it when you need it. It'll keep the logical ball rolling and it's also one more thing that'll help you remember where you put it. Make new files as you need them, there's no need to let that kind of busy work pile up.

Annually, box up your accumulated files and store them away. You probably already do this for tax reasons. Sometime in the month of January purge your files of last year's documents. Next year you'll love yourself for doing it.

It won't be long before file upkeep becomes habit. And that's when the hard part is over. You can truly relax and enjoy the countless rewards for an organized office. Rarely ever will you scramble for documents or find yourself searching for an important piece of paper again. You'll bask in the unhindered glory of having your files in a row when co-workers, family and friends notice that you have it together.

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