Filing is not a fun topic and it is something the majority of people will cringe at the thought of doing. We all put it off until either your paper pile is ready to come tumbling down, or your electronic documents are impossible to find. So how can we reduce the amount of time we are spending filing?
Little and often
As with anything, if you focus on doing little and often, it will reduce the amount of time overall you are spending doing the actual task. If you have a mountain of paperwork to sort through or hundreds of electronic documents to review and filter, it will take you a lot longer. If you spent even 10 minutes a week putting away the few documents you have to hand, you won’t need to waste valuable time sorting and filtering.
Set up a good structure. When you first create a filing system it seems logical to just create the tabs or folders you need right now, but what happens when the number of documents you file increases? Think about what items you want to file now and in the future, do you have the space available for the amount to be filed, will you have sub folders; you don’t want to suddenly think of another category more suitable and then have to move things around so get the basics in place from the beginning.
Think about the life expectancy of the documents, what information are you planning to retain, how long will you keep it, when will it transfer into archives or when can you go through and dispose?
Are you keeping things for the sake of keeping them? You don’t want to be filing away documents that you don’t need to keep or are never going to refer to again. Bin them or shred them.
Remember to keep file names relevant and give you an indication of what it contains. It’s no good saving a file by something that means you need to open multiple documents to find what you are looking for. Some examples of a good structure – ‘Letter – Mr J Smith 04.04.17’, ‘Quote – Mr J Smith 04.04.17’, ‘Invoice – Mr J Smith 04.04.17’. But remember to keep it consistent to help you find things in the future.
Try to avoid using abbreviations for file names, unless you are planning to keep a key or they are easy to identify. You don’t want to stand there trying to remember what the abbreviation stands for or if you get some temporary help in, having to explain the structure and meanings, wasting more valuable time.
If you are keeping electronic documents are you backing them up regularly? What would happen if you had a problem with your PC or laptop? Would you be able to get back up and running quickly without losing the majority of your work and papers? I personally use iDrive and Dropbox to back up my documents, both of which are installed on my laptop and will automatically run daily to back up all my documents.
If you are a stationery junky like me then filing can be fun! Not only does it mean you get to go to the stationery shop and spend an age going through all the different styles and designs, but choosing something that makes you want to get that folder out the cupboard, or attach those bright sticky tabs, writing in your new sparkly pen is going to motivated you to do it.
Filing may not be a fun and exciting way to pass the time, but it is something we need to do either in our businesses, or keeping our personal documents safe and being able to retrieve the information when we need it.
If you really cannot face tackling a backlog of filing, or are looking for support on a regular basis, I am here to help! Seem impossible when you have paper files and I’m virtual? It’s not difficult at all! I can help on site locally to where I am based in Essex, you can ship documents to me to go through and send back, or I can recommend a lovely local VA to come in and help you, wherever you are based in the world!! Why not get in touch at email@example.com or call me on 07538 715537.