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The Few Effective Rules of Managing a Ton of Files and Emails

Setting Up an Effective Paper Filing System

Developing an effective filing system helps you find things when they’re needed. Then you can avoid wasting time looking for things and instead you can get right to work. Three steps can help you to create an effective filing system.

The first step in creating your system is to sort like with like and consolidate files into basic general categories. You could begin by sorting paper into groups on your desk and identifying the patterns that emerge. For instance, suppose you noticed three general categories.

Use common sense

Your company’s five-year plan, your department’s five-year plan, and a copy of your company’s annual goals. These could all be consolidated into one file, labeled with your company’s name, and the heading, Planning. Don’t get fancy with file labeling. That’s the second step in good file management. Label your files using common sense, not elaborate, imaginative titles.

You could choose to file them alphabetically. But there are lots of other ways to categorize files. You could sort by subject, numerically, geographically or chronologically, whichever makes most sense to you and to the subject matter you’re dealing with. It’s also useful to label files with nouns. For example, a label titled Contract Negotiations makes more sense than How to Negotiate Contracts?

Purge files regularly

It’s a good idea to label files according to how you use information rather than where you found it. For instance, maybe you regularly save articles from newsletters or magazines. It will be easier to find these later if you file them according to the subject of the article rather than the name of the source.

The third step is to purge files regularly, by getting rid of information you no longer need. Purging files helps you maintain a clutter-free filing system because you only keep things that are truly needed. You should try to turn every piece of paper in your workspace into an action item. Deal with each piece before it has the chance to become clutter.