Is your desk buried under stacks of papers? Does it take you more than 5 minutes to find the documents you need? Are you often confused about which work files to keep and where to file them?
Here is a simple method for organizing your work files. You’re free to tweak the system according to your needs, but more or less, it can help you sort your documents into general categories and decide which ones need to be further divided or simply thrown away.
It’s best that each client has his own files. If your job entails a lot of paper on each client (which often happens for lawyers, designers and financial advisors) you may want to further divide each file into regular subcategories, such as “Contracts” or “Invoices” or “Background Information.” Color coded tabs can help you immediately see the difference between a main file an subfiles.
Separate actual client files and prospects. One simple method is to keep clients in the left tab position and the prospects in a right tab position. When you get the account (hurray!) you can just invert the folder and then reattach the label. It’s less confusing that way!
Subject or research files
These are for any research you have for your work, and may include articles, clippings, notes, and anything you may need for a proposal, speech or presentation.
It’s good for business owners to collect samples of good marketing materials: well written brochures, excellent ad layouts, powerful sales letters. These can spark your creative juices and serve as an easy reference for a graphic designer once you actually make your own collaterals.
It’s good to keep these in an expandable envelope. Divide receipts according to project, trip or date.
Notes from meetings and seminars
You probably have a notebook, which is great for lists and short-term info. But if you want to keep notes long-term (like learnings from a seminar, or feedback from customers) photocopy the notes and then write down the summary at the top of the page. That way, even when you throw away your notebook, you have a permanent file of that important information. (Read our 7 tips on writing organized meeting notes.)
Sort paid bills into pocket folders by month and store in storage boxes. A good rule of thumb is to keep them from six months to a year for tax purposes.
Photo from thelifestylers.blogspot.com