Managing your documents …and your time
Have you ever kept a client or your boss waiting on the phone while you’ve searched the piles of papers on your desk for an important document? If you have, then they may have a lower opinion of you because in a key moment, you let them down.
And if it’s your job to help people, how much of yours and other people’s time are you wasting if you can’t find the documents and papers you need, when you need them? You owe it to yourself to file effectively,however boring this may seem. Imagine how much more impressive it would have been if – when asked – you’d smiled, accessed a wellorganised filing system, instantly found the document and quickly given the answer.
Even in the age of email and the internet, we still deal with many paper documents and files. There’s an influx of data pouring at us from all directions that we need to process and store to retrieve later. You need to be able to lay your hands on the information instantly so it can be used for further analysis, projects, report writing, or creating a presentation. All too often we waste our own time (and the time of others) searching for information that is actually sitting somewhere on our desk or in an filing cabinet. This adds to our stress and makes the task of using the information efficiently more difficult than it should be. We need to get more organised and competent with our filing if we’re going to get our work done in a more timely manner.
Managing Information Efficiently
When you receive a document from a colleague, supplier or customer, it’s tempting to ‘just put it away’ in a pile on your desk or drawer for the time being. “I’ll take a closer look at this later, when I’ve got more time.” Sound familiar? After a while so many documents build up, leading to a lot of clutter and total chaos in your workspace. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever find time to go back and get all of that information organised, especially considering that you’re usually under pressure with other things. You can spend hours of precious time searching for documents that you’ve filed away somewhere because it’s easy to forget where you put them in the first place. So the question is, how can you create a simple and professional filing system?
Effective File Management
Effective filing boils down to this: store the information in folders – by category and in an order that makes sense to you. Colour code files, label them with filing labels, mark important information with page markers and segregate projects with dividers.
Managing Your Documents… and Your Time.
Here are some tips to help manage your files:
Avoid saving unnecessary documents – Don’t make a habit of saving everything that finds its way to you. Take a few seconds to glance through the content, and save a file only if it’s relevant to your work activity. Having too many unnecessary documents adds to the mess and makes it harder to find things in the future.
Be selective about what you keep – Follow a consistent method for naming your files and folders – for instance, divide a main folder into subfolders for customers, suppliers and internal projects. Give shortened names to identify what or who the folders relate to. What’s more, you could give a different appearance or look to different categories of folders – this can make it easy to tell them apart at first glance.
Store related documents together – for example, store reports, letters, presentation notes, spreadsheets and graphics related to a particular project in a single folder – rather than having one folder for presentations for all projects, another folder for spreadsheets for all projects, etc. This way, it will be much quicker to find documents for a particular project.
Separate ongoing work from completed work – some people prefer to keep current or ongoing work on their desk until a job is completed. Then, once it’s done, they move it to the appropriate location where files of the same category are stored. At periodic intervals (for example, weekly or every two weeks), move files you’re no longer working into the folders where your completed work is stored.
Avoid overfilling folders – if you have a large number of files in one folder, break them into subfolders. The idea is to place every file into a logical folder or subfolder, rather than have one huge list of files where you can’t find the relevant documents.
Make digital copies of paper documents with a scanner – this is useful if you don’t have much space to store paper documents or if you want to archive documents without destroying them completely. (Note: this won’t be appropriate for all types of documents, such as with legal contracts or documents that require original signatures).
We’ll grant you that you are a rare breed if you like filing but it is a key part of your job if you want to be organised and work productively. Time is precious in the modern day workplace so keeping your filing system up-to-date is a necessary evil.