Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ask the organiser - help with business filing

When people join my mailing list, I send a question out in the autoresponder with their Organising Success Pack that says something like, "tell me your biggest organising challenge".

I love it when people respond because not only do I get to know them better, but I also get blog topics :)


Amanda in Australia writes...

I have one monster thing I still need help with and that is organising my filing cabinet.

I start and have done well I thought..but I have problems with working out what headings to have to make this job easier if you get me...I mean..I have one hanging file marked 'phone' and in there I can quickly put all my paid phone bills..and another for 'House Rates' etc..and 'Electricity' those are easy..but I have so many other things to do with my work that I have no idea where to put them under what heading..that I pile them altogether and then can't find them if I ever need them again.

Invoices for example..do I file them under supplier name? It sounds stupid as I was a receptionist and can file really well..it's the working out the filing system that I am not having luck with at my home..how come I can do this at work and yet when it's my own I am stumped???

My paper clutter is still my biggest issue. Ok..well best keep moving..you asked what my biggest challenge still is..there ya go!
Here's my suggestion for Amanda


1. File the same way you think
Ask yourself, "if I were looking for this piece of paper, what would I look under?"

I happen to know Amanda makes hand-made soaps and toiletries so if she has several suppliers, maybe she'd like to have a file binder called Suppliers, and then have separate dividers to file according to the individual names.

Something to look out for is this: you don't want to be switching file dividers all the time. E.g. I file my insurance by Homeowners, Content, Car, Life so that even if I switch underwriters (as I did at the beginning of this year), I don't have to rewrite the headings. Yes, I'm lazy.

In Amanda's case, especially if I only have one supplier per type of material, I would have one divider per material supplier.

2. First general, then more specific

Take a pile of those papers and a separate page to make notes. For each piece of paper, write down a general category and then specifically, what you may want to call it.

E.g. a credit card statement from Absa would be general - credit card; specific - Absa.

Go through the whole pile and soon themes will emerge. You might realise that you have 3 credit cards so you need 3 dividers, but only one essential oils supplier, so you just need 1 divider for the essential oils stuff.

3. Keep your system fluid
Before you make a new file or filing section, check to see if you already have something similar. If you realise that you don't like the old name you chose, change it.

Also, if you're a person who hates filing and you know full well you're never going to punch any papers, get hanging files so you need to just drop the papers inside. See the picture above for examples of hanging files

Nothing is set in stone - after all, this is YOUR filing system and must work for you.

These buddy drawer systems also work well for the lazy filer. I have the big drawers but you get systems with drawers about one-third the size too which would suit invoices, etc. a lot better.

1 comment:

jacki janse van rensburg said...

i like the general/specific idea.

i have a filing drawer system on my desk, and hanging files.

the things that get invoices and statements often, like bankstatements and utility bills, go in the drawers, because it's easy and quick. i toss them in there STRAIGHT AWAY, as soon as they are processed (they are not allowed to touch the desk at all!) and when the drawer gets full, i know it's time to start sorting from the bottom.

things like tv licence and school fees and postbox fees, that come once a year, go in the hanging files.

i also have some 2-ring files. there is a 'cars' one (general), that has tabbed file deviders inside for each car (specific).

i found that it got easier once i had a system that works for me. then it is just a matter of sticking to it.

thanks for all your good tips!

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