Say no to piles and stacks of paper.

Do you have piles of paper stacked on your desk? Do you really think you can find everything? Is that piece of paper on top your next big project that is going to move your business forward? How about that paper under that one, you know the one you can’t see….

file system

You need a system to keep all those loose bits of papers organized!

Some say that a messy desk is a sign of a busy person. I think, in most cases, that might be true. But don’t mistake busy for being productive, the two are not the same.

Everything can and should have a spot.

If you get in the habit of  keeping things where they belong, you will be able to find them later.

I have a simple folder system that sits at the corner of my desk. I use one of the those black wire frame folder organizer racks to keep them neatly arranged.

Here’s what’s in the folders:

  • Action Support – I have one folder with stuff that I call action support. Could be any loose document that I need a place to file it. These are papers that aren’t part of a bigger project and aren’t from a particular client. This is a catch all and shouldn’t be very full. If your action support file is getting stuffed then you assess what’s in the folder, could be you have “projects” in that folder.
  • Project/Client Support – This makes up the majority of my folders. These are folders based on projects I have going on for the clients I have. I might have meeting notes, agendas or any pertinent document relating to the project and the client. I grab and go with these folders.
  • Follow ups or Agenda’s With – If you have anyone you meet with on a regular basis then you should have folder dedicated to them. Store any paperwork here that they need to sign or review with you.

I like clear poly folders. They last a long time and never get sloppy looking. I just recycle them for the next project. Clear folders can be handy it lets you see the document on the top of the stack. Keep this in mind if you have sensitive data that you may not want to share on that document.

I take it one level further by color coding the file tags. It makes easier to find a file with the color coding.

  • Yellow – I use this color for admin tasks. These are my agenda with files or admin meetings. I also have my action support folder tagged with this color.
  • Green – These are my client support files. Every client gets a folder. Remember, I may have multiple projects going on for each client. We define a project as anything that takes more than one step to complete. If it’s a particularly document dense project than that client’s project will get a separate  folder. Most of the time I just leave my action support for all the the projects related to a particular client in one folder.
  • Orange –  These are office related project support files. I usually have one for current IT projects and for HR related projects, such as insurance renewals.

I use Post It super sticky notes for the color coding. I also use a label maker to label the file. The label goes right over the post it note. When I want to recycle the folder I just tear off the post it note with the label on it and replace it with a new one. It keeps things neat!

One great side effect of the folder system is if you get interrupted by an important phone call you can scoop everything up and stick in a file. At a later time you can go back to it.

Sometimes knowing where your “stuff” is can be half the battle. Interruptions along with a busy schedule lend themselves to stacking papers on your desk in an unorganized mess. But it doesn’t have to be that way and you can keep your stuff organized.

Let’s talk more about this on Twitter.