Are you overwhelmed by the amount of paper that is constantly coming into your home, work or life? If so, you are not alone! How would it feel to get those large piles of paper off of your desk, your kitchen counter or your office floor? There are two main types of filing systems: Action and Reference.
An Action Filing System is for those papers that require action. Action systems can be set up three different ways:
1) Tickler System – File by the date you intend to act on paper. (i.e. Create 1-31 files for each day of the month & January - December files for each month of the year). If you will pay a bill or invoice on the 15th of October, file it in the 15th file. If you have a piece of paper that reminds you to start a project in January, it goes in the January file. On the last day of each month take the papers in the next month’s file and move them into the appropriate 1-31 files.
2) Categorical – File by what you intend to do. (ie. “Bills to Pay,” “Calls to Make,” “To Read,” etc.)
3) Hierarchical – File by importance (ie. “Urgent,” “Important,” Somewhat Important,” “Low Priority,” Someday Maybe,” etc.)
Whichever one of these three systems you choose, make sure it fits your personal organizing style. You may need to try out each system to see which one makes most sense to you. By using one of these systems, you ensure that paper you need to act on right now is not buried underneath paper that does not require your immediate attention. Less distraction, more action.
set up your Action Filing System in a visible and central location, such as on the kitchen counter or on your desk top. There are many decorative file boxes & containers available. Alternately – the drawer in your desk on your dominant side (right if you’re right-handed) gets these papers out of sight, but not out of mind. You’ll want to establish the habit of checking this drawer or container daily.
The second type of filing system is a Reference Filing System. Reference files are for those papers you need to keep but don’t necessarily require action. You’re keeping them to refer to them later. For home filing needs, these papers include items such as: paid bills, tax archives, medical records, auto records, health insurance plan, etc. For business needs these papers include such items as: client records, vendor information, human resource files, business resources, marketing, PR, budget, business plans, etc. For your reference filing system it is very important to have ample space to file your papers. When a filing cabinet is over-full, it makes it extremely difficult to file papers away.
There are several different ready-made filing systems/kits available for home and business purposes. Once you have set up effective action and reference filing systems, you’re ready to tackle your piles. Ask yourself these questions as you sort through each piece of paper:
Do I need this?
Is the information outdated or still relevant today?
Can I get this information someplace else?
Why am I holding onto this?
Statistically, we only retrieve 20% or less of what we file away. To eliminate much of the stress & clutter that paper brings, it is important to reduce the amount of paper you keep when possible. Make the recycle bin or shredder your new best friend!