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