Filing paperwork often seems like an overwhelming task! It can be complicated and time consuming to find a home for every piece of paper that comes into your workspace. The great news is that it doesn’t have to be complicated at all. Yes, initially learning and establishing a filing system will take a bit of work, but once you have a good filing system set up, maintaining it becomes automatic, and, dare I say – easy.
It is as easy as 1-2-3 – the only three types of files you will ever need. Really! An effective filing system only contains three types of files: Action, Reference, and Archive.
Action files are related to projects you are currently working on. These are files that you will need access to on a regular basis during your day. These are often the types of files that get piled on your desk because you are afraid that you are going to misfile something or forgot to take action on it. Once you establish an efficient filing system you will not have to worry about these files anymore because they will have a place and you will know where to find them.
Reference files are files that you cannot get rid of, but you don’t need frequent access to. This is the type of information that you access once a week or once a month, but probably not every day.
Archive files are files that are no longer in active use. These are files that you need to keep for some reason but don’t access regularly, if at all. Once a project is completed you might archive supporting documents – “just in case” – even though you know you probably will not need them again.
All of these three file types are an important part of a good filing system, but this article is focused on just one type – reference files.
Reference files are the base of a company’s resource library. Productivity can be dramatically increased when each team member can quickly and easily access all reference files. Imagine how much more efficient your office would be if all team members had access to key reference materials?
In addition to increasing efficiency, sharing reference files can increase morale helping unify an office. It eliminates some of the individual “camps” that tend to form in an office and helps to make people more interconnected. This can lead to more teamwork which leads to increased productivity for everyone.
The first step in pooling your office reference files is to choose a system that will work best with your current available workspace as well as your corporate climate.
Since reference files are accessed less frequently than action files many offices choose to create a general reference file in a central location in the office. Locating reference files outside of anyone’s individual workspace makes it easier for any member of the team to access a file without disturbing someone else. It also has the benefit of clearing up individual workspaces for individual files.
A great way to build morale is to get everyone’s input on a new filing system. Hold a business organizing brainstorming session and ask team members what would help them be more productive in a new filing system. It can be helpful to hold a brief training session explaining the new filing system so that everyone understands how to use it. Showing people how easy it can be to use and maintain will help get everyone on board and excited about your new reference filing system.