How to Set Up an Effective Filing System

Yes, everyone would like to have a paperless office, but let’s be honest, for most people, that is just a dream. The majority of us are still dependent on paperwork.

Good organization and filing system as one of its derivatives is an important part of every business. You don’t want to spend hours and hours trying to find the right paper, while businesses are made and broken in a matter of minutes. No one can afford such a luxury.That is why you need to simplify your filing system as much as you can. There are few general rules you should stick to.

Think it Through

Before anything else, take a few moments to figure out where you want to put your files. If you already have a filing cabinet there should be no doubts, but in the case you don’t, think of a place where you would look for them intuitively. In your desk drawer or on the shelf – choose a place that suits you the best.

Chose a Filling System

First of all, it needs to be logical. You can organize your files alphabetically, by subject or category, or even numerically. The first option is the best when the majority of your papers will be your client’s or customer’s files, so you can sort them according to their names. The second one can be great, but only if you categorize things in the right way, otherwise you are going to get confused all the time and it will do more damage than good. The numerical organization, on the other hand, is a good choice when your files are mainly bills, orders, etc., so they can be filed by the dates. You can also mix these systems, but be careful not to make complete chaos.

Create Categories

Organize your files into broad categories like “Healthcare”, “Finance”, “Clients”, etc. For instance, all the bills, bank statements, and credit documentation will be a part of the “Finance” category. All the documents concerning your business partners or customers will be in “Clients” category. Just make things as simple as possible.

Create Subcategories

When you’re dealing with a large number of documents, separation of files only into categories isn’t enough. If you want to have a functional system, you should divide categories into subcategories. Here you should be specific.For example, in the “Finance” category, saving accounts, credit card accounts, and loans should make separate categories,instead of making just one called “bank statements”. Be as detailed as possible.

Use Colors

Every category with its subcategories should have a different color. The choice of color is completely up to you. “Finance” category can be labeled in blue, “Healthcare” in red, “Clients” in yellow, for instance. It is only important that a color of the category is the same as its subcategories. If you can use hanging folders in the same color as category papers, that would be even better.

The color of the paperwork might not look that important to you, but it does matter to your brain and will save you a lot of time in finding the right documents. After some time, your brain will connect color to a certain category, and then, many of your activities will be automated. Your hand will naturally go towards the right files.


After you have decided which color goes with which category, it’s time to label. In this part, go from general to specific. Give names that will your related files together when arranged alphabetically. For instance, if you have loans from an IMB and P&N bank, don’t name these files “IMP bank loan” and “P&N bank loan”, name them “bank loan: IMB” and “bank loan: P&N”. All the files should be named following this principle – that way all the associated files will be positioned close to each other, which will ease their future use.

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