Organizing Your Files in a Cabinet or Drawer

When determining your file
Hanging folders in file drawer.
categories, do not make the system so complicated that there are several folders, each with only a few papers in them. Instead make a logical filing system of categorizing and sub-categories.
  If you like visual clues to make finding files easier, consider color-coding your files with colored labels or folders.  


  • Main Categories = Limit major categories between 6 and 10.  Start your filing category names with a noun verses an adjective or verb to keep things simple.  An easy way to do this is to file main or major categories in the order they will be used most by you with the least at the back.  Use hanging files with marked tabs are an excellent way to make it easy to see major categories. 
  • Sub-categories - Create sub-categories within the main categories, if necessary. Subcategories would then go in individual labeled folders within the hanging folders.  Make your subcategories labels within the major filing either alphabetical or numerical to make searching easier.  Do not use both alpha and numbers on different folders as this becomes complicated and confusing.
Here are three types of data you may want to consider filing for future reference. 

If your filing includes financial data and tax information, subcategorizing by dates makes more sense.  For instance, you may want a major category of IRS then subcategories by year for filing purposes.  Be sure all the supporting tax data is in the correct year folder to save time, if there is an audit.  Be sure to keep personal and business expenses separated too.  If tracking business expenses, keep mileage and expenses folder(s) by year or year/month to keep all receipts and travel records for future use in accounting or taxes.  A summary record at the front of folder or on a computer will help your better track your expenses.  If you are driving related to business, you may want to keep separate folders by year for mileage reports so the expense folders do not overflow.  Keep mileage and expense folders close together in your business or personal filing systems.    

If your filing includes research materials, literature, magazines, and catalogs keep only the most current information or the articles of interest rather than keeping the whole document.  Keep these items in appropriately marked folders by subject where data retrieval will be easy.  If you want to keep a file with references in it, the file should contain the name and number of a person to contact or a web site that may be accessed for additional data.  File your research and periodical clippings by subject category instead of by source name.  When looking for the clipping, finding it is more likely if you have filed it by subject.

If your work requires a lot of people contacts, make referral folders for each person you will be communicating with frequently.  File the folders alphabetically by the person’s name (you decide if first or last name on folders works best for you) and then place the items to pass to the person or notes for discussion in the appropriate person’s folder.   This will save you time in getting ready for meetings with people as well as in the actual discussion, since everything is already together including any notes for have taken or wish to share. 

For general ideas on filing, see articles:

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