Handling Your Paper Files 1: Set-up Tips

File Cabinet with Hanging Files
Whether you work alone or with a group of people, there will be paper and there will be a need to file it.  Here are a few ideas for setting up and maintain a filing system.  If you are creating a file system for a business or office, there is a lot to consider.  So to keep if less overwhelming, I am putting the information in two separate posts: 1= Set-up and 2= Maintain.  So come back later for the second half.

Personal Workspace Filing
You will want to keep files you use daily close to the reach of your work area.  Consider either in front of a conveniently located file drawer or in a standing vertical file holder on your work surface.  This way you do not have to get up too often to get the data you need for current projects. All other work files should be in a different drawer or storage unit out-of-sight and out-of-the-way to prevent clutter and distractions.  Put files you seldom reference or archive files in a location other than your immediate work area. 

Selecting Storage
If you are using short but deep drawers to store items, use divided trays to store small items and keep them from rolling around.  This way finding items is easier.  Taller, wide drawers work well for using to store files, if a file cabinet is not desirable.  Actually, a file cabinet is just several file drawers stacked on each other in a stable unit.  Drawers that are not large enough to use for files and too large for small office items, may be used for storage of office supplies such as paper or large quantity purchases of smaller items.   When deciding where to place drawers, be sure to allow enough space to pull out drawers completely.

When setting up a filing system in your organization’s department, small business, or personal home office, hanging files will work best for your main categories.   Place well-labeled detail folders for sub-categories in the main hanging file.  Keep your filing system simple and easy to use.  If not easy and pleasant, appropriate filing will not happen in a timely manner.  If you think visual emphasis will make filing easier, color-coding by subject or importance may be desirable.  Color-coding can be the folder color or the label color but use only one method throughout system.  When filing information in folders, always place the newest information in the front of the folder.  Most often when consulting a file folder the most current data is what is required.  Therefore, if the newest information is at the front then the process of digging into the folder is quicker.  It is usually easier to skim through a thick file to find information than to have to search through multiple thin files to find the required data. 

If others share filling system, jointly decide on what the filing system should look like.  If this is not possible, explain the filing system and get buy-in to it before proceeding.  If you are using a shared filing system ( such as in a business office) and it is set-up as something other than alphabetical, numerical, or date, then include a typed information sheet or index card on outside of the file location.  This information sheet makes it easier for others to understand the filing system.  Having the information sheet posted means no one has an excuse for not correctly re-filing so that others cannot find desired files in the future.  If you are sharing the files with others, you may want to consider placing the files close to a door to reduce interruption to work flow of the person sitting closet to the file location

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