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Don't turn your office into a hidden object game: Efficient filing keeps your desktop free from clutter. Don’t turn your office into a hidden object game: Efficient filing keeps your desktop free from clutter.


Why filing is a good idea

The purpose of a filing system is to manage data. This includes storing, retrieving and updating data.
It might look like a tedious task, but there are many advantages to effective records management, which save you time in the long run.


How to create a good filing system

1) Decide what needs to be filed and what can be thrown away

Some documents have to be kept for a certain amount of time for legal purposes. Ensure you don’t dispose of anything you might need at a later stage.

2) Find  a way to convert into easy to store formats

Find out what documents can be stored in a digital format. Nowadays it’s easy to convert important documents into digital files, for example by scanning bills and save them as PDFs.

3) Store your documents in a safe place

If you dispose of the hard copy, ensure you have a secure back-up of your digital data. Hard drives can break, cloud solutions can be hacked, research what works best for you.

4) Decide on a Filing Method

There are different ways to file, decide which one is the most suitable for you:

– by subject / category
– in alphabetical order
– by numbers / in numerical order
– by places / in geographical order
– by dates/ in chronological order

5) Group your files

Think in projects, events or other high level criteria to break large folders into smaller ones. Don’t exceed too many sublevels, but don’t keep too many files in one group either.

6) Create a directory

Get an overview by zooming out to bird eye’s view: How is your current filing system set up? How should it be set up?

Just like we make a Table of Contents for a presentation, an Organogram for our company, a Sitemap for our website, it’s a good idea to visualise the structure of your filing system.

Play around with it, move folders, think up the most unlikely scenario and see if your system still works.

7) Define categories

Identify guiding principles and write them down, so any other person using your filing system knows where to save their documents.

8) Add metadata

Browsing is dead, long live the search!

Even if you file your documents accurately, there can be situations when you can’t remember where you put it. Or you need everything relating to a subject you haven’t thought of before and didn’t file accordingly.

Or you generally might find it much easier and quicker to simply search.

For this you need to attach keywords to your files, add such info and more as metadata whenever possible.

9) Establish and follow a Naming Convention

To find your content easier, give it meaningful names. Establish what information should be in the file name and add descriptive words. To achieve consistency in your filing system, establish a naming convention.

10) Avoid duplicates

Putting an efficient filing system in place should be foolproof not to have duplicates, if it wasn’t for one random factor: human error.

To ensure you have no duplicates wasting valuable storage space, do a search and sort the result by size. Files with the same size are likely to be duplicates.

Alternatively you can install a program that removes duplicates for you.

11) Version Control

Sometimes you might want to keep duplicates for a track record of progress. You can then indicate the versions by naming the files accordingly, e.g. _v1 / _v2 or date-in-reverse-order.

Version control is especially important if more than one person works on a document. For this consider online tools such as document sharing or content management systems which offer a standard version control system.

12) Archive it

Separate ongoing work from completed work by archiving everything you don’t need to access frequently. You can combine this with keeping your back-up up to date.



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