Labeling Files: My Top 5 Tips

Have you ever had a pile of papers that defied being labeled? Or perhaps you’re worried that if you do file that important piece of paper, you’ll never find it again in your cavernous filing system. Yet some people seem to be able to put their hands on any piece of paper they are looking for within seconds. What are their secrets for labeling files?

Create one overall system and stick to it. If you forget what categories you have in your filing system, create an index so you can scan the index to file and find items.

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Organize Your Paperwork: Maintenance

Organize Your Paperwork: Maintenance

Now that you’ve got your filing system set up and your action items in their proper places, it’s time for maintenance. Some tips on maintaining your filing system:

Monthly Calendar
  • If you have temporary files, file them by month and year, which allows for quick archiving.
  • Purge your files regularly—I recommend at least annually.
  • File at least weekly, more often if you are a paper-intensive home.
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Organize Your Paperwork: Filing

Organize Your Paperwork: Filing

Filing paperwork is crucial because it allows you to find things quickly and easily. Here are some tips for creating a great filing system.

Naming Conventions

Having a standardized terminology for your files keeps search time to a minimum, with both digital and physical files. For physical files, use consistent dates and names. For digital files, include multiple search terms in your file name to allow for faster retrieval.

Paper Files: 5-20 Items Rule of Thumb

Use cascading hierarchies when creating your paper files. For instance, you could keep all your insurances together in one hanging folder and have the paperwork for the individual policies in separate interior folders.  

If you have fewer than five items in one category, that’s a sign that you could condense it with another. More than twenty items should be split up into subcategories. For instance, say you have files relating to places you want to travel to. If you only want to go to New Zealand and visit Lord of the Rings locations, you only need one folder. If you want to go to every state in the US and have paperwork about each state you want to visit, then a folder for each state will be helpful. This helps avoid overstuffed folders that are difficult to look through and avoids having unnecessary folders as well. Using labeling, color coding, or different locations for these categories makes them easy to see at a glance.

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Organize Your Paperwork: Action Items

Organize Your Paperwork: Action Items

Action Items

Action item alarm clock.

Action items are a type of paperwork that needs attention, like reminders of appointments, or a bill that’s coming due.

One common mistake people make when organizing their paperwork is keeping action items out to help them remember. Put away the paper and keep the reminder. Keeping an action item on your desk leads to clutter. Have a specific place for action items, so you know where to look for them when it is time to take that action.

Have a reminder system in place. You can set a reminder on your phone, write it in a paper planner, or use one of the action item systems below, and put the paper away.

Use the 2-minute rule – if it will take less than 2 minutes to do it, do it now. It’s not worth your time to file it. Set the reminder, and find it again – just do it!

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Organize Your Paperwork: RAFTS

Organize Your Paperwork: RAFTS

Why organize your paperwork? Organizing your paperwork clears piles of paper cluttering your space, helps you find information efficiently, keeps you on top of bills and to-dos, and avoids late fees, missed deadlines, and wasting time. Organize your paperwork to reduce stress, have a clear mind and focus on what matters.

The first step toward fully organized paperwork is to sort. When we are clearing someone’s desk, we use the RAFTS system: Recycle, Action, File, Trash/Treasure, and Shred.

Recycle

Any paperwork you no longer need that doesn’t contain sensitive information can be recycled. This includes things like advertisements, takeout menus, old Post-It notes, or junk mail.

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Organize Your Desk: Mail and More

Organize Your Desk: Mail and More

In this post, we’re going to discuss how to organize mail, and some ideas for dealing with paperwork.

Incoming mail

Developing the habit of sorting and acting on incoming mail immediately dramatically reduces the amount of work it takes to manage your paperwork. Be brutal with the advertising that comes to your home. Unless you’re actually going to use something, not just think you might, recycle it immediately. Set aside a short time every day to manage your incoming mail. Depending on the volume of mail, you may want to take action on the incoming mail each day, or set aside some time each week to manage anything that has come up. Do not skip a day. Do not let it pile up again! It will become easier and easier to stay on top of it.

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