Setting Up a Filing System Part 3: Creating Your Files

By | Feb 15, 2010

In Part 1 of Setting Up a Filing System, I talked about the types of filing systems you can choose from.  In Part 2, I talked about Active vs. Historical files.  Now that you have some of the theory behind you, let’s talk about actually setting up your files.

Most of the time when we design a filing system, we already have files in place that we are recategorizing.  If that is the case, you want to start by removing all of the files from the cabinets.  If you are starting from scratch with many documents to file, then you don’t need that first step.

The next thing you should do is start going through your files or documents, and putting them in piles.  As you categorize each file, think about what broad category that file or document should inhabit.  You should have a pile for each broad category.  As a broad category starts becoming unwieldy, start breaking it down into separate files for sub-categories.  If you find you have one file that is too large for a file folder, you might want to think about splitting the file into multiple files, whether time based, alphabetical, or into further categories.

Labeling Your File Folders

Once you have your files and documents categorized, it is time to make up your folders.  You’ll want hanging files labeled with your categories, and you’ll put the files within that category in those hanging files.

You have several options for labeling your folders.  You can hand write them, which is easy, but doesn’t really look that professional.  If you use labels, you have a variety of choices.

  • Full page file labels – You can use full pages of file labels to print your files.  My experience with this is that it works great if you need to make a great deal of labels at one time, but is inefficient if you only want to label a few files.  If you print labels a few at a time on the full page of labels, the remaining labels tend to get a dirty, gray look.
  • Specialty Printer for Labels – You can purchase a little desktop printer specifically for labels, such as the Brother QL-570 Professional Label Printer (affiliate link), which plugs into your USB drive.  The bonus here is that it prints a variety of label sizes if you buy multiple label cartridges for it, so you can switch easily from file folder to address to shipping labels.
  • Label Maker – You can also purchase a generic label maker, such as the Brother QL-570 Professional Label Printer(affiliate link).  These print single labels easily, but the tapes can be pricey.

Next up in the series: Electronic files with date in the file name.

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4 Comments so far
  1. jason (2 comments) February 16, 2010 2:57 am

    that’s the way to go. chunk everything down. put everything that’s related into a folder and label it i.e project name.

  2. Per (1 comments) February 16, 2010 6:32 am

    Good points for a filing system for someone who certainly makes a mess out of everything. Well almost. =D The logic behind this can still be used even for virtual files. I have lots of spreadsheets, word documents and power point presentations that need to be categorized and filed correctly in my Documents folder.
    .-= Per´s last blog ..Webbhotell för Företag – Välj rätt =-.

  3. Jodith (189 comments) February 20, 2010 8:42 am

    I use these guidelines for my digital files as well as my paper ones, and I tried to write this post with both in mind.

    Thanks for your comment!

  4. Renee (1 comments) December 8, 2010 9:26 am

    I wanted to colour code my files but found the available colours for labels limiting so I used excell to create label sized cells that had a narrow band of colour at the top. I could fit 30 or so on a page, get custom colours (!!!) and I just cut them down and taped them in place.

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