An efficient filing system is worth having, and here’s why: if you can reduce the amount of time you spend looking for your papers by just three minutes every day, it will save you more than two working days a year!
So spend a little time thinking logically about how to set up your filing system.
First of all, decide what really needs to be printed off and filed as a hard copy; you may be able to reduce the amount of paper you’re handling. Learn how to organize your files electronically and have a safe back-up system in place; then you won’t need to print everything “just to be on the safe side”.
Think about how you search for things; do you look for the client’s name, or is a reference number more important? Alternatively, does it make sense to file your papers in categories, such as expenses, marketing and sales leads?
When you’ve worked this out you can decide whether an alphabetical, numerical, or subject filing system will work best for you.
In practice, you will probably use one system with another: for example, you may have a category called clients, and within that file, keep details of your clients in alphabetical order.
Consider too how often you need to access your files. If your job demands you constantly refer to paperwork, you will benefit from storing your most important files in a cabinet right next to your desk, so you only need to swivel on your chair to reach them.
If you only look at paperwork a couple of times a day, your filing cabinet could sit anywhere in the office.
Allow for business growth when choosing your filing cabinets- buy something twice the size of your current needs, and this will minimise the need for re-organisation later on.
Make your files easy to read visually, with clear, good-sized labels and maybe a colour coded system.
Many small businesses find it useful to have a set of 12 monthly folders to organise business receipts. So when you’ve just made a purchase from a shop, or online, you quickly put your receipt into the folder for your current month, March (or whatever the month happens to be).Then at the end of that month, you (or a colleague) can quickly find the receipts and enter them onto your accounts spreadsheet.
To keep on top of filing, have an intelligent system for handling paperwork. Don’t let it stack up haphazardly on your desk. Each piece of paper should be handled just once, acted upon, and then filed if you need to keep a record.
Routines may sound boring, but they make life easier in the long run. So make updating your records part of your daily discipline.
With all of the time you’re going to save, you should be able to take a day off from the office sometime soon!