There, I’ve said it. In this fourth part of the Getting Things Done series, I’ll be looking at filing. If you have missed the other three parts of the series, you can read Part One here, Part Two here, and Part Three here.
I love filing, something I have been told is more than a bit weird. Apparently, No One likes filing. That being the case, I’d rather like to meet this mysterious No One. I think we’d get on fine. But I digress.
The Getting Things Done method won’t work as effectively if you don’t have a decent filing system. Before your eyes glaze over and you run away screaming in horror, can I just say that a filing system really is only a system that works for you, in which stuff that you need to refer to is kept.
Your filing system doesn’t need to be complicated, it just needs to make sense to you and hold the things you want to find quickly and easily. Your system will reflect what you do, what you need to keep, and how you like to work. And that’s fine. It’s your system. Design it to work for you.
Designing your file system can sometimes take a little time to get right, but is worth spending that time because a well-designed system that is kept up to date will allow you to lay hands on things when you need them. The less time spent digging around in the files, the more time you have available for revenue-producing activity.
Key things to consider when designing your filing system:
Ease of access. You shouldn’t have to trek across the office to add something to a commonly used file. Keep the reference files you use most often closest to you.
Label things in a way that makes sense to you, so you can locate information quickly.
If you are using hard copy files then keep a stock of new file covers close at hand so that if you need to create a new file for something you can do so quickly and easily. When you finish with the file (or anything else) put it back where it belongs so that it’s always easy to find. Put the correct documentation into the correct file.
Don’t make your filing system really complicated. Follow a naming process, ideally a really simple one. Always follow the same file naming protocol whether that is client surname, project name, or whatever works for you. When you are busy you don’t want to be searching around wondering if you filed the Garside Project under G for Garside, P for Project, I for IT, or C because your client’s name is Charles.
File things away regularly. Ideally, put things away when you’ve finished with them. As a minimum, tidy stuff up and file things at the end of the day.
If the item you need is in your filing pile rather than the file it will get overlooked, or you will have to spend ten minutes taking the filing pile apart to look for it.
Of course, much of your information will be held in electronic form and the same ideas apply here as for physical paper in terms of labelling and organising things logically for fast retrieval.
Ideally, your electronic filing systems should follow the same labelling plan across all devices and mirror any paper files as well. That way you can find things, quickly and easily, in every system you own.
Don’t forget your Email System
Email In-Boxes need to be kept tidy. It is so much easier to find things if you have a filing system within your Email system and you actually use it. Again, the labels should echo the labels in the rest of your system so that you have a limited number of places to look for the item you need.
It is very tempting to keep lots of stuff “just in case I need it”. Sometimes this is exactly the right approach. Sometimes it is not. One area where people seem to accumulate far more items than necessary is the Email System. It can be helpful to look critically at what you are keeping hold of and be realistic about whether you really do need to keep the information.
Sometimes, you can get so overwhelmed with all the things you need to organise that it can be helpful for an outsider to come in and help you to sift through the information and support you in creating a filing and information management system that works well for you. So, if you want to start the process of increasing your productivity using this method, but are struggling to set up your filing system, get to Inbox Zero, or find time to sort out all the information that needs to be captured and organised, then give me a call. I’d be happy to support you. You can contact me here.