Three Simple Filing Guidelines

by Maria Gracia


One of the most basic ways to find papers when you need them is to retrieve them from an effective filing system. A good filing system will allow you to find what you're looking for in 10 seconds or less.

Here are three simple filing guidelines that can help:

  1. Categorize.

    A filing system is only effective, if you can find everything you need, when you need it without a struggle. And all good filing systems have different categories of papers. Your papers are either going to fall into a main category, or a sub-category.

    For example, a main category might be "Financial". Some sub-categories within financial may be "Savings Account", "Checking Account", or "Money Market Account".

    In your filing cabinet, your main categories should always be in hanging file folders with a labeled tab. Your sub-categories should be in labeled, manila file folders inside the appropriate main category hanging folder.

  2. Have a Basic Filing System.

    For the most part, people choose to use one, or a combination of, three basic filing systems:

    • Alphabetical (A, B, C, D, etc.)
    • Numerical (1, 2, 3, 4, etc.)
    • Chronological (Jan., Feb., Mar., Apr., etc.)

    The system you use will depend on its' intended use. For example, if you need to keep files for all of your customers (or associates, friends, etc.), then an alphabetical file system organized by last name will generally work best.

    For sequential case numbers or projects that are numbered, a numerical system would probably work best.

    If it is necessary for you to find things by date, then chronological may be your choice.

    Some people get really creative and use a combination of these systems. For example, you may want your main categories to be chronological, but the sub-categories inside to be alphabetical.

  3. Label.

    If a file isn't labeled properly, it's not going to be quick and easy to find. You'll want to remember three simple things. First, Always write your subject on the tab of the file folder, close to the top of the tab, so you can easily see it when you're looking through your files. Next, use a medium point, black marker to label your files. (Always use print instead of script) And finally, use as few words as possible on the tab.

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