Now that you have spent the last couple of months preparing your tax reports to Uncle Sam, it’s a good time to ask, how did your filing system hold up to the task? Were you able to retrieve records and documents quickly or did you spend frustrating hours searching. An assessment of your current filing system may reveal that an overhaul is in order.
First, let’s identify that there are two types of files
- active files that hold resource materials which are regularly referred to for information; and
- permanent files which are rarely referred to but contain records we are required to retain, such as tax and legal records.
Active filing systems do not include permanent records. They take up valuable space and are referred to only rarely, if ever. It is best to archive these records separately in boxes (clearly marked, of course) or file storage containers in an area that is accessible but out of the way. Which of these records should you keep and which can you trash? Best check with your CPA or accountant first. Every day filing systems contain only those records and documents referred to on a regular basis to retrieve information necessary for running a business or household.
Tips on How to Maintain an Efficient Filing System
Here are a few tips for maintaining an efficient active filing system:
- Base filing on retrieval, not storage. Instead of asking yourself, “Where should I file this?” ask yourself, “Where would I look for this if I need it?” Then label the file accordingly.
- Consistently insert new papers into the front of the file folder. When purging files, start from the back where the oldest documents are.
- Purge files annually. You will be able to find needed items quicker and will save on storage space.
- Use color coding for easy, quick identification. Office supply stores have all kinds of files and labels to do this.
- Always alphabetize. The obvious reason is to save you time when looking for a file. Cleaning up your computer hard drive will also work wonders for your efficiency. Through disorganized use of computers, over 7% of time is spent finding misplaced files, and 3-5% of all files are lost.
- Free up memory space by deleting old versions of software applications or unused programs.
- Remove document files to floppy disks to give more space on your hard drive and prevent loss.
- Organize your hard drive and your floppy disks by creating directories or folders. w Use identical systems when organizing hard drive, floppy disks and paper files. Color code disks to match your paper files.
- Back up files regularly. How often depends on volume of files created over a given period of time. Back up weekly or at least monthly.
A well organized filing system frees your mind of that nagging worry – will I be able to find it if I need it? You always will.
Recommended Books on Setting Up the Home Office:
- The Smarter Home Office: 8 simple steps to increase your income, inspiration and comfort
- Working from a Home Office Successfully: Best Practice Tips
- Building the Custom Home Office: Projects for the Complete Home Work Space
- Stomp the Elephant in the Office: Put an End to the Toxic Workplace, Get More Done — and Be Excited About Work Again
About the Author:
- How to Maintain an Efficient Filing System
- 10 Common Home Office Mistakes
- How to Use Winzip for Your Business
- How to Create a Home Office that Works
- Good Record Keeping for Your Small Business