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How can I make filing go faster?

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  • How can I make filing go faster?

    I am facing my numerouspiles and partially organized files of the past. I am throwing a lot out as I go, but there is much that I need to retain, especially family and financial documents, pictures, reports that I will need to reference for work, and client/customer folders.

    Before I describe my system, here are my questions:

    First, can I set this system up any better?

    Second, and perhaps this is more of an empirical question, is it better to put the papers I am keeping into their files as I go, or to divide into the location categories (House, General, Active, Financial) or even iuse the A to Z "tickler" tule folder for the General , and then file by so I am physically only filing into one area orletter of the alphabet at a time?

    If I suspect I might have a similarly named file in my system somwhere should I search for at the time or just make a new folder, and figure I will eventually combine them, or put that on a SDMB list?

    Basically there are three file "areas". I tried having one A to Z and there was too much to search through for files frequently accessed, also I like to lock the financial when we are out and people are staying in our house.

    General Reference: On a large table in the center of the room are eight open bankers boxes that go from A to Z, these are general reference for everything except the two exceptions below. This starts with Air Travel and ends with YMCA, by the way. It incluides friends and family by last name, stores by name that we patronize often, kids school work by their name, info about schools by name of the school (but all begin with SCHOOL: name of the school, or SCHOOLS:name of the category or issue), personal papers for all of us organized by person's name, vacation and travel labelled by place, activities and interestsm etc. If we own it, yellow folder; if it is about a person, red folder; if it is a personal project of mine and could not be of interest to anyone else in the family, it is purple folder.

    My work related folders are in here too, A to Z but each one starts with PROF:____. Eventually these will live in their own drawers.

    These won't live on the table forever, it is just easier to access them this way while I am culling and sorting my huge undifferentiated piles.

    2nd area= HOUSE - This is for stuff related to renovating our house (2 drawers in same room), this has lot of picture brochures, specification information, etc. I have an handwritten outline of how I have it organized, so I don't duplicate topics or make things unfindable. I use a yellow folder for items that we actually own or a contractor or tradesman who has actually done work for us. Each of these, plain or yellow starts with the word "HOUSE". Unfortunatly there is a lot of over-sized stuff piled in back of the drawer. I need a book shelf above for books related to this project. Eventually everything realted to the house that is general reference will make its way into HOUSE (lawn mower-we own).

    3rd area next to my desk chair : Active Projects in drawer next to my desk.

    Financial current year : all the routine stuff that gets paid, examined, or will need to be retrieved for taxes. These are dark green.

    Financial reference: last few years tax returns and supporting documentation.

    Within the current year several folders are color coded a light green because they need to travel from year to year: auto, credit history, house mortage and valuation, insurances.

    To be honest there is a forth area that contains my so-in box and all the outgoing-stuff to give to particular family members, stuff to mail, casual read and review, directories, phone books, etc.

  • #2
    Looks like a sensible system to me.

    Regarding what to do as you file: I dislike adding temporary structure into the organizational process. I recommend you file each item into its final location as you go. This is not gospel.

    One possible improvement:

    What if you took, say, the HOUSE folders, switched them all out for red folders, and filed them in your A-Z system? So the HOUSE folders would all be red folders in your general A-Z filing system. That would eliminate one extra pile. Similarly for active projects (blue?).


    • #3
      Sounds like you're really moving ahead. We are also currently reorganizing all paperwork and files, much of which are going into a reference system located nearby or archive filing cabinets, which are located elsewhere. I set up a similar system, whereby we are using temporary bankers boxes for the archives, so that we don't create duplicate file folders. Several times a week, I'll pick a pack of files, papers, or a filing cabinet and sort through them. It will take some time, but I know I will feel great when it's all stored properly - either in reference or archive or trash/shredder (yay). I've even found a few that I had to close off by way of active projects (not a yay). In visual terms about 5 bankers boxes of unprocessed stuff fit into one organized bankers box now. I only split up my personal from my professional. All financial documents are also not filed separately; they either go with professional or personal. I'm also not using color files as you are - it's too late for me.

      I don't really have any suggestion about what you could be doing better. It would be great to hire someone to help, but most processing decisions can only be made by the owner of the documents.

      Right now I'm making lists of all the things I will be able to do during that organizing time, once all my papers are in order.


      • #4
        Help and support with filing

        It sounds like there are 2 processes going on simultaneously: 1) dealing with backlog - purging old stuff and then deciding out of the current piles what you still need to retain, and 2) setting up your filing system to make it easier moving forward. As David quotes in the article on “General Reference Filing”:

        “The bottom line: You each need your own personal, at-hand general reference filing system. It should take you less than 60 seconds to pick something up out of your in-basket, or print it from e-mail, decide it has no action but does have potential future value, and finish storing it into a trusted system. If it takes you longer than a minute to complete that action, you won’t do it—you’ll stack it instead.”

        We typically recommend keeping Active/current project files separate from General Reference, which you are doing. I think it’s ok to keep your financial files separate, especially if the files need to be kept in a locked cabinet. You may be over-complicating things with the colored folders (and in my experience with this over the years, we always seem to run out of one color faster than the other, and before we know it blue is mixed in with yellow).

        If you are planning on eventually purchase filing cabinets, I would recommend taking a measuring tape and measuring how many inches of current files you have. For example, if you have 12 bankers’ boxes full of files and the boxes are 15 inches long, you would have 180 inches of files (15x12). When you purchase filing cabinets I would consider doubling that number, to have plenty of space moving forward.

        Bottom line #2: most of us don't necessarily LOVE filing , so the more we can set up (on the front end), to make it easier to file as we process, the easier it will be (and the less resistance we'll have). For some inspiration, consider listening to the Getting Started expanded conversation on "Non-Action Stuff: Reference":

        Take good care!