In the late ‘80s when I worked at the Kenan-Flagler Business School at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill I had a student intern who worked with me for a semester.
One day, when I could think of nothing else for her to do I asked her to alphabetize my files. You have to understand, until then my filing system consisted of opening the file draw, pushing all the files back and dropping the file in my hand into the front of the stack. Not the most efficient system.
When she completed her task I thought it was Christmas! I could find any of my files and believe it or not I kept those files straight. The project taught me the importance of effective filing.
Try these strategies to get a handle on your files, paper and electronic:
- Stop unnecessary information, paper and email, from coming to you.
- Handle it less by making decisions now
- Move it along. Put it to work or send it to someone else.
- Don’t open junk mail or emails. Trash’em without looking at them.
- File information in Major Categories: Working, Reference, Archives, and Personal. Then break it into specific topics.
- Color Code your files. Humans recognize colors before words.
- Keep files where you need them.
- Tailor systems to special needs (projects, recipes, photos).
- Use your computer to cut paper not make it. Scan info, toss paper.
- ALWAYS BACK UP FILES
- Cull as you go. If you notice outdated information in a file toss it.
- Use Fridays for clean up and back up days.
The average American workers wastes two weeks every years just looking for stuff. Taking a little time to get your files straight saves lots of time later.
And, I'm not immune...I spent Sunday afternoon cleaning up my files so I'm ready to rock for the fall.
Have a big week!