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How to Take Your Office Filing System out of the 1950s

Office filing tips

“You guys, I just love filing!”

Said no one, ever.

Very few people actually like office filing. But unfortunately, it’s one of those things that needs to get done—unless you and all of your co-workers are fine with a messy avalanche of paper in the corner of the office, or digital files that are impossible to navigate.

But if you hear the word ‘filing’ and immediately think of papercuts and labeled file drawers, well, you’re right—sort of. Many offices still deal with plenty of real paper, even though eco-Ninjas might dream of running a paper-free ship.

Real paper files have been phasing out for years. According to a report from Smithers Pira, office paper is declining right around 1 percent per year. And while that may not seem like a huge amount, it definitely has an impact.

As a result, today’s Ninjas have to master the art of digitally organizing all that need-to-know company information.

Technology has changed filing in the office. Whether you’re doing things the old fashion way, or have moved completely online, there are a few office filing tips and strategies that will improve your game without collecting more piles.

How Technology Has Changed the Filing Game

The advent of technology has fostered an “I need it, and I need it now!” mentality in all of us. Those paper documents stored in dusty metal file cabinets do us almost no good. Instead, we want to be able to access information we need in a much more streamlined way than we used to—without ancient archive boxes.

Paper systems were a tried and true staple of yesterday’s office environments, but here are a few reasons why they’re (slowly) exiting modern workspaces:

  • Convenience
    Paper files only exist in one place, but digital files can be accessed from almost anywhere. Plus, they take up very little space. It’s way easier to carry around an entire virtual report than it is a hard copy.
  • Ease of Use
    Unlike their digital counterparts, paper files don’t come with a handy search bar. It’s often much easier to find what you’re looking for using digital methods—as opposed to flipping through countless mislabeled file folders. Tagging systems and intricate labeling capabilities are bonus.
  • Security and Safety
    Yes, security breaches happen. But what were to happen if your office flooded or caught fire? Do you have a second copy of those uber-important payroll sheets stored elsewhere? Probably not. With digital files, backing up is easy.

The most likely scenario is that your office uses a blend of paper and digital files—and that’s totally okay. To make sure you’re balancing the best of both worlds, we’re sharing our top office filing tips for Ninjas.

Office Filing Tips & Strategies

1. Set Clear Procedures

Regardless of your method, filing only works well if everybody’s using the same system. For example, if some people use the naming convention ‘The Company’ and others use ‘Company, The’, it’ll quickly become impossible for anyone in your office to find anything.

Make sure you outline detailed procedures for anyone who so much as lays a finger on your files. Getting everybody on the same page right from the start will save plenty of headaches down the road. Not to mention, it’ll cut the time spent searching for a file in half if only one section needs to be searched.

2. Schedule Catch-Up Days

Despite your best intentions, you’ll likely fall behind on filing every now and then. And you don’t want your to-be-filed stacks (whether digital or real paper) to grow so high that the idea of putting them away becomes overwhelming.

Schedule a regular filing catch-up day each month. During that day, take care of any pesky filing that’s been hanging around. If you stay on top of it, it’ll likely only take you an hour, tops. This is also a good time to make sure your tagging or labeling conventions are consistent over time.

3. Assign a Point Person

As with anything, it’s best if you have a single person who acts as the main point of contact, so anybody who has questions or suggestions about the filing system will know exactly who to approach.

After all, having too many cooks in the kitchen is never a good thing—especially when those cooks are attempting to keep an entire office’s files in order. The Keeper of the Files should also be in charge of—or be extremely familiar with—which documents are stored electronically and which are printed.

4. Keep it Simple

Finally, when in doubt, keep things, like file locations and storage order, simple. Otherwise it’s only going to cost you (and everyone else in your office) in more than time. The purpose of implementing a system in the first place is to reduce sporadic question-asking. If no one knows how to navigate the system you set in place, the learning curve will make it all irrelevant.

Ask yourself where the first place you’d look for that document is. The first place you come up with is the most intuitive—meaning it’s likely the best place for that document to live.

Filing in This Millennium

Looking to get your hands on some tools that’ll make filing a little easier (and—dare we say—even a little fun)? Check out these tools that’ll take filing out of the 1950s and into the modern era.

iFiles

As a files manager for iOS, iFiles comes packed with all sorts of helpful features to make organization a breeze. With a document viewer, wireless file sharing capabilities, and even an audio recorder, you’ll be able to ensure everything’s in the right place while you’re on the go.

Keyless Lock

If you’re aiming to make your paper files more secure (because everybody knows the file cabinet keys are stashed in the top drawer of your desk), this keypad lock should definitely do the trick.

Filing will likely never be something that inspires you to bust into your happy dance. But it doesn’t need to be a totally awful experience either. There’s definitely some satisfaction in a neatly organized file, whether it’s in the office back room or in the cloud. Whether you implement these office filing tips or test out the tools, you’re sure to take at least a little bit of pain out of the process.

What do you do to make filing a little more painless? Any great tips or organization methods to share?

Responses

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  1. I instituted a new filing system in our office this year using our SharePoint document site. This one is specifically for our expense reports (non-travel) that unfortunately is still a paper based process. By scanning the originals before submitting and uploading them to our SharePoint document site (adding some key metadata along the way) our whole team is now able to access and search for submitted expense reports. This takes the time commitment for searching for specific reports (or groups of reports) off me and allows my team to search using the filters provided. If they need to find all of the reports submitted payable to Jane Doe, Inc. all they have to do is filter by the “Payee” column. The process still has room for improvements, but my cabinets are no longer full of binders and it won’t take days to turn through every page to find one report. Hooray for filing!

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