Wednesday, January 12, 2005

The Best Paper-Based Filing System Ever

Are you someone who hates to file, but who hates even more to not be able to find a file?

Do you resist filing papers that have accumulated on your desk/workspace at the end of each day because it's a tedious chore?

Do you realize how much more productive and satisfied you'll be if you overcome this simple, but pervasive hurdle to business success?

Make this the year that you put that time- and energy-wasting obstacle to your productivity behind you!

This is a system that I use everyday to put my hands on any paper-based file in my system in less than a minute. I can do the filing, or my assistant can do it, and either of us can find anything in there.

Best of all it only costs your time to implement.

It's called giving up alphabetical filing and moving to a numeric look-up system.

In practice, it means using the tabs of your folders for numbers, not names (of people, projects, resources, etc.), and putting an index on a spreadsheet. When you file, you records the next sequential number in a row, followed by an optional category/location, followed by as much descriptive detail as you like. When you want to find something, open your spreadsheet up and do a quick "find" on the key word/phrase that you're looking for.

For instance, here are my top four categories (because each has its own filing cabinet or drawer):
  • Administrative Financial
  • Business
  • Household
  • Speaking engagements

    In row 33 of Household, I list every home appliance manual I own. As new ones come in, I add to the details "Toro lawnmower", "powerwasher - 1800 psi", etc., so it's easy to find when I'm looking for it again.

    If you're looking for more guidance/structure, I recommend that you visit Barbara Hemphill's website Productive Environment . She's and entrepreneural genius in this field, and has developed several great products such as "Taming the Paper Tiger" that you might enjoy. She also trains professional organizers if you want some help with your business or household organizing.
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