Take a moment to think about your file management practices. After some serious thought, you may feel overwhelmed. You might not know where most of your files--physical and digital--even are. The good news is, you’re not alone. Many business-savvy people save documents wherever the default settings are set to, and have no clue where to locate them later.
Years of bad file management could be to blame. Regardless, it might be time to make some serious habit changes to how you store your files.
1. It’s time to implement the right classification system
A functional classification system is important for filing comprehensive information and maintaining consistency in naming items. Having a classification system in place will allow you to retrieve and file items easily. To properly classify your files, make labels for hanging file folders or manila folders. Then organize all your documents into the appropriate folders.
2. Centralizing files: keep everything together
Having all your files in one, central location will give you peace of mind knowing where everything is located. Bringing all of your physical files into one space, such as a file cabinet, or an off-site storage facility will improve user efficiency, security, reliability and space utilization in your workplace. Having all your physical files in one location should also make it easier to manage and keep records of your most important information.
3. Tickler File System
Setting up (and committing to) a tickler file system could be a game-changer if you’ve never used it before. The tickler file system is simple. Create 43 hanging file folders. Label 12 folders for each month of the year. The remaining 31 folders can be labeled 1-31, one for each day of the month. Organize the folders in numerical and chronological order in a file cabinet, and then file away any paperwork that has a due date into it’s given day of the month. Every morning you can open up that day’s folder and know exactly what you need to work on.
4. Store all of your data in one location
Organizing your digital files and folders on your computer is no different than keeping your physical files in one location. The most efficient way to do this on your computer (for Windows users) is to utilize the default Documents folder built into Windows. Be sure to name your folders according to subject and store appropriate files into each named folder. To clear space on your own computer, consider R4 Services’ imaging services, where we scan your paper files, then store and manage them as digital files for you.
5. Take advantage of shortcuts
One of the easiest and most productive ways to keep your digital files organized is to use shortcuts on your desktop or laptop. Rather than copying a document to your desktop, make it a habit to create a shortcut to that file. This will ensure your files remain where they belong. To create a shortcut to a document, right-click on the file and choose Create Shortcut.
6. Go with short file names
Keeping your file names short and concise will help you find documents and properly organize them. WIth a shorter, condensed file name, you can quickly access the document you are searching for and avoid confusion when sharing the files with other people.
7. Be descriptive as possible when naming folders
When you have multiple digital files across several different topics, it’s a good idea to separate the files into different descriptive folders. Having descriptive folders can help you easily identify what the topic is about. Let’s say you have multiple files throughout the year, and you want to break them down into months of the year. You can create 12 folders, one for each month, and file documents into their respective monthly folders. The more detail you have in your folder names, the easier it will be to locate the files when you need them.
8. Couple folders within folders
When you have a big project that you’re working on, you’ll likely have many documents going at once. Those documents will go into their own (newly named and descriptive!) folders. But what happens when you have too many folders? You can nest folders within folders. So, when you have a project or task to manage that is ongoing for several years, you can have one folder naming the project. Within the project folder you can create folders for each year. Eg., “2012”, “2013”, “2014”. This way, when you’re looking for a file from a previous year, you know exactly where to find it.
9. Regularly backup your files
This is perhaps the most important tip for good file management. When you need a copy of a physical document, you go to the copier machine and make a copy. It’s no different for digital files. Whether you backup your files onto a jump drive, or external hard drive, getting into the habit of backing up files is a smart idea.
Need additional advice when it comes to your businesses’ document storage and file management plan? Contact R4 Services here!