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Hello, I'm Barbara Hemphill. My passion is helping you accomplish your work and enjoy your life, and I'm so glad you've joined me again today!
Do you have huge piles of papers needing to be filed, or large numbers of files in several file drawers in which you have difficulty finding what you need? Last week I talked about alphabetical filing systems -- or as I prefer to call them "finding systems," and this week I want to talk about a numerical system. I'm reminded of a favorite quote: "You can have anything you want -- but not everything!" Certainly that's true with filing systems -- no system is perfect. The key is to find the system that is the best for the specific problem you are trying to solve.
One of the things that makes organizing papers and files so slow is the issue of naming -- e.g, "What do you want to call this file?" or "Where do you want to file this paper?" -- e.g., "auto," "car, "Honda," "vehicle," or "transportation?" If you are using a filing system with text labels (whether or not they are in alphabetical order), you have to keep changing label names. A numerical system eliminate that problem. Here's how it works:
Think of a filing cabinet as a "warehouse for paper" and each hanging file folder as a "container in the warehouse."
- Place numbers of on each hanging folder (As we discussed last week, I prefer putting the plastic tabs on the front of the folders.) I usually start a new finding system by setting up at least 100 file folders -- if it's a very large system, it would be many more than that! The key point is that you ALWAYS want to have some empty file folders with numbers ready to file more papers when you need them.
- You can put a word in front of the number to indicate the category of papers you are filing -- most frequently I use Reference 1, Reference 2, Reference 3.
- If you are breaking your Reference files into categories, you might use Admin 1, Admin 2, Admin 3, HR 1, HR 2, HR 3, or Vendor 1, Vendor 2, Vendor 3, etc.
- In order to access your papers, you will need to use your computer (or a File Index you have printed out from your computer). You can use something as simple as a Word document, an Excel spreadsheet, or you can purchase a specific program designed for filing systems.
- When you want to file a paper, you simply drop it in a numbered folder, and then enter the File Name and keywords associated with that file in whatever computer program you are using.
- As you continue to file, you will remember that you filed certain papers, but you may not remember what you called it or where you filed it, but a simple computer search will bring up the file number in seconds. You can add new papers to existing files or create a new file easily and quickly.
We have been talking about filing loose papers, but what about an existing filing system that simply doesn't work? You have two options:
- Fix the old system or
- Start over.
Most often with clients, we choose the later -- start over. We set up the numerical system, and then take the files out of the old system and put them into the new.
Recently a woman showed me a pile of papers she needed to file. I asked her how long it would take, and she said: 2-3 hours. We set up the numerical filing system, and in 20 minutes everything was filed, and anyone in the office could find any paper they needed in a matter of seconds by searching on the computer or looking at the printed File Index.
So here's my challenge for you this week! The best place to measure the value of a numerical filing system is with your most difficult papers or worst filing system. Can you identify a place where you should try it out?
Post comments or questions in the comments area of this episode about what steps you have taken to eliminate paper piles in your home or office.
If you like this podcast and think a friend or colleague can benefit from it please share it with them using the Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn buttons on the podcast page on my website." Until next week, I'm Barbara Hemphill. Thanks for listening!