When we think of an organized office we often think of proper lighting, ergonomic furniture, and tools within in reach. An often overlooked characteristic of an organized office is organized files. Knowing how to create a filing system and general maintenance rules will help you save time as well as aid in you running an efficient business.
Creating a filing system
When you create your filing system, create groups of records based on how fast you need to be able to retrieve them. For example, if Customer1 wants you to fax over a copy of their contract, will it be quicker for you to:
- pull the contract from a file that contains nothing but customer contracts; or
- pull the contract from a file that contains all information pertaining to Customer1?
Use your experience and professional judgment to group common records. Some common file groups are:
- product types,
- projects, or
Electronic vs. Hard-Copy
While many companies are going green, there are still some that continue to maintain both electronic and hard-copy filing systems. Of course, there are some files that originate as a hard copy – like a signed contract. In any event, the electronic system should mirror the hard-copy system. Here is how they should align:
- Naming Rules
Creating naming rules will help you quickly identify the file type. It also helps keep uniformity in your filing system. In the example above –INV_BrownA_070111, the naming rule is: [DOCUMENT CODE]_[CLIENT NAME]_[DATE] It translates as follows: [DOCUMENT CODE] – INV (for invoice) [CLIENT NAME] – BrownA [DATE] – 070111 (for July 1, 2011) Naming rules can be used for any group of records that are regularly filed and retrieved electronically.
Rules of Thumb
- Always assume that at any given point someone not familiar with the company or what you do there will need to access your files.
- Always name folders and files based on their content. Never (ever) name files after the person maintaining them.
- Never handwrite labels. Printed labels maintain neatness and readability.
- Use a system that is easy to maintain and understand. Make your naming format as simple as possible.