A Quick Guide to Keeping an Effective Filing System
Published July 11, 2021
A well-organized office filing system is crucial for any business that deals with invoices, receipts, and other records, whether on paper or electronically. Even if your company does not generate a lot of paperwork, maintaining an organized and efficient work environment will help keep operations running smoothly.
Office filing systems come in various forms, ranging from simple file organizers to complex arrays of digital servers. To design a system that works for you, it’s essential to understand which files to put first, who needs access, and how they can be quickly and efficiently retrieved. Below are the following crucial factors to consider.
Reasons Why Filing System Is Essential
Knowing how to maintain receipts and invoices properly is vital for a small business’s financial health. A non-existent or disorganized filing system can add days to income tax time, and you do not want to miss out on tax deductions due to missing receipts. In addition, if you are audited and cannot produce the required documents on time, your claims may be denied, and your tax return may be reassessed.
Depending on your industry, you may be required to maintain records for years in order to comply with state or federal regulations. For example, case files must be retained by law firms for three years. Accountants and tax preparation businesses are required to retain tax returns for seven years. On the other hand, construction firms, medical offices, and educational institutions all have significant record-keeping responsibilities.
While most people do not consider the labor they will be able to save with the help of filing systems, some estimates indicate that businesses spend six weeks per year searching for misplaced files.
If your business is relatively simple, your record-keeping needs may be limited to payroll and accounting. However, you will still need to be able to work quickly and easily at your desk.
5 Ways to Organize a Filing System
To get you and your business flow smoothly, as well as for stress management, follow these five steps to ensure that documents are easily accessible and identifiable.
1. Recognize Personal and Office Habits
Consider which employees require access to files, their work locations, and what makes sense for their workstations. If you’re designing a system for yourself, consider ergonomics, your workday flow, your office space movement, what you can reach effortlessly from your desk, and what information requires frequent access versus what can be archived long term. On the other hand, if you’re designing a system for another person, solicit audience insight because what works for one person may not work for another.
2. Choose an Effective Filing System For You
The nature of your business will dictate whether you need to file numerically, alphabetically, or in some other manner. For instance, do you conduct customer information searches by name or account number? Do you organize your paperwork according to categories such as expenses, financial, and marketing?
While space is not an issue with digital systems, it’s essential to have room for growth when purchasing filing cabinets when it comes to paper systems. It’s recommended to buy something that can hold twice the number of files you currently have. Broad subject categories enable you in expanding files easily as your business grows. This is to avoid reorganizing or expanding file folders over and over regularly. Maintaining simplicity also makes the process of integrating your paper and digital files into your overall document management system easier.
People have been using color-coding since office paperwork, and that was decades ago. Color coding is a tried and true technique that never fails, and it’s relatively quick and simple to implement, even if you have a particularly complicated filing system. Color coding will motivate you to organize your files into sensible categories, locate them quickly, and enjoy the filing process.
This organizational technique is ideal for transforming disorganized stacks of paper into orderly packages that are as predictable as possible. Best of all, color coding is compatible with both physical and digital files, so you can easily use the same color-coding system if you need to organize both types of files.
When files are digitized, a paperless filing system is essentially created. Converting all paper files to digital formats is better because many people find organizing a digital filing system easier than a paper filing system. If you like to digitize your files, you must first scan and convert your existing files, which can be a time- and labor-intensive process.
Setting an expiration date
While this may appear to be a shortcut, one of the most effective ways to organize an office filing system is to minimize the number of files to organize. Weeding out files by content can be challenging because it’s challenging to determine which files should be saved and which should be thrown, but discarding files by age provides a safe, standardized method to determine which is which.
Dividing and conquering
If the files you’re organizing are only relevant to a specific group, assign someone from each department to organize the files while creating an overall file management structure.
Organizing files on the walls
Instead of a file box or shelf, you can mount file holders directly to your walls. Then, you can easily reach out to them when looking for something.
While you may have big goals for maintaining an orderly office filing system, everything could fall apart if and when you become busy. This system ensures that files remain organized according to their category rather than piling up in an unorganized heap.
Organizing by importance
Someone who has searched through files understands the eagerness to find precisely what they are looking for rather than 100 items they do not need. So, for instance, arrange your office files in ascending order of importance to make document retrieval more pleasurable for everyone.
Even the best office filing system will eventually become disorganized. It’s best to remember this and plan to do a little bit of work every week to keep the system organized. Contributing a small amount of effort consistently will feel far less overwhelming than attempting to clean up a year’s worth of mismanaged files in one swoop.
Separating ongoing work from completed ones
This brilliant tip changes the entire filing system game. You can continue to organize files for completed projects, but separating them from files for ongoing work will significantly improve the speed and efficiency of file retrieval.
3. Calculate Your Storage Needs
If you have a lot of files that need access regularly, they should be easily accessible. Those accessed infrequently do not need to be located in your workspace but may need to be nearby. There could be a combination of factors. Certain files may be required daily, while others can be filed away for long-term storage.
4. A Good Labeling System Investment
While the ability to read file labels may seem obvious, clarity in labeling will save time. The majority of companies that manufacture labels offer templates that are compatible with common word processing software. You can try one of the small label-making systems that can also print individual mailing labels. Items that serve multiple purposes are frequently a wise investment.
5. Make Use of Hanging Files
Folders that are both user-friendly and durable are an excellent investment. Hanging filing folders in bright colors are readily available and easily identifiable. For instance, if you organize all client files in pink hanging folders, marketing in green folders, and financial information in orange folders, you’ll save time searching for and filing documents using easily identifiable visual cues.
Try to Go Paperless
Numerous businesses have already made the transition to a paperless office or something close to it. With online, cloud-based storage and digital transactions replacing cash transactions may make paperless the new normal.
Even government agencies have joined the cause. The IRS now accepts scanned images or paper copies of scanned items, including the following:
- Receipts in cash
- Account statements
- Checks that have been canceled
- Salary stubs
- Statements from credit cards
If you are still operating traditionally but wish to go environmentally friendly, you can gradually transition to paperless operations. Fortunately, numerous services and software applications scan and store old expense receipts alongside your other digital accounting data.
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About The Author
As a professional writer at many renowned websites Krizzia Paolyn has covered a wide range of topics in many industries. Her knack for uncovering important truths and conducting thorough research on each topic she writes about has helped thousands of people across the world.