The Dreaded Filing System: How to Conquer Your Paperwork
In today’s digital age, we often think that the solution to all our organizational problems is to digitize everything. But in reality, physical paperwork still exists and is still a major contributor to clutter in our workspaces. Despite our best intentions, filing paperwork can be a daunting task that often gets put off until it becomes a mountain of unorganized chaos. In this article, we will explore how to conquer your filing system and create a system that works for you.
Understanding Different Types of Paperwork
Before we delve into specific methods, it’s important to recognize that there are different types of paperwork, each with their own unique organizational needs. The first type is project files, which are often the easiest to organize because they are specific to a particular project and need to be easily accessed. The second type is official documents, such as invoices, bills, and reports, which usually fall into natural categories that suggest a filing system. The third type is reference material, which includes any documents that contain information we may need to access in the future, but don’t necessarily have a specific place in a project or category-based filing system.
The Challenge of Reference Material
It’s this third type of paperwork that often causes the most anxiety because it can be difficult to organize in a meaningful way. We may know that we need certain papers, but don’t know how to file them so that they are easily retrievable when we need them. This fear of losing important information or forgetting about it can be paralyzing and often leads to leaving more paperwork out than filing it away.
Creating an Effective Filing System
The first step in creating an effective filing system is to determine how you want to organize your paperwork. There are different methods that work for different people, so it’s important to find a system that works for you. Here are a few options:
1. Alphabetical by Author or Subject – This is a simple method that works well for some people. It involves organizing papers by either the author’s last name or subject matter. However, this method can make it difficult to retrieve papers if you can’t remember the author’s name or if the paper covers multiple topics.
2. Topic-Based Filing – This method involves organizing paperwork by topic, regardless of author or other identifying characteristics. This can work well if you have a lot of reference material that covers a variety of subjects. However, it can still be difficult to retrieve papers if the topic doesn’t have a clear label or if the paper covers multiple subjects.
3. Document Management Software – There are many software programs available that can help you organize your paperwork, such as the Paper Tiger software mentioned in the article. These programs use tags or keywords to help you easily find papers when you need them. However, many of these programs can be expensive and may require a bit of a learning curve.
Creating a Simple Spreadsheet
If you don’t want to invest in expensive software, creating a simple spreadsheet can also work well. This method involves assigning a number to each folder and then creating a description of the contents along with keywords and notes about the papers. This can be a flexible system that allows you to easily add new papers, even if they don’t fit neatly into a specific category. It also allows you to quickly search the spreadsheet for specific keywords or topics.
Overcoming Filing Anxiety
No matter which method you choose, it’s important to remember that filing should be quick, easy, and even enjoyable. If it takes more than a few seconds to file something, you are less likely to do it. The key is to find a system that works for you and to make it a habit to file papers as soon as they come across your desk. With a little bit of effort and a good system in place, you can conquer your paperwork and enjoy a clutter-free workspace.