How to Set Up An Effective Filing System

Spring is lone gone and summer has finally arrived, but if like many people around the world you skipped your spring cleaning, you could be finding that your filing system is in disarray. Well don't worry, we've put together a guide to setting up an effective filing system so you can keep your papers and documents in order this summer. No matter how large the mess or how disorganised you think you might be, follow these top tips and your files will be neat and tidy in no time.

1. Create clear, simple categories

This is the most important thing to get right. Clear, simple categories and labelling are the backbone of all great filing systems - so don't get it wrong. Depending on the nature of your work or office, your filing system may need specialist categories and ordering, but at the very least should be alphabetic, numeric, alphanumeric or chronological, and your system should be written so other can follow it and find what they need.

2. Be consistent

It's no good spending time creating your categories and labelling standards if you aren't going to stick to them. Inconsistency causes confusion and disorganisation - keep your categories and labelling consistent throughout your filing system and you will see the difference when you're searching for that important document.

Suspension Files

3. Choose tidy stationery

You need binders and folders with space for clear labelling that can be seen without disturbing them. A good idea is to use ring binders, suspension files or labelled folders to organise your documents. That way you don't spend an age looking for your documents and you don't disorganise your system each time you need something. As well being neat and tidy, it also needs to be user friendly and indestructible.

4. Destroy those duplicates

Unnecessary duplicates are the enemy of any filing system. As well as causing confusion and dis-organisation, they take up extra space which may need to be used in future. Keep it to one copy if you can, and if you can't, clearly mark your original and your duplicates on each page to avoid confusion.

5. Test it!

The best way to keep your system in order is to test it. You should be able to find any document you need in under 30 seconds - saving you and your colleagues valuable time in the office. If it's taking you too long, or if things are out of place, you may need to reconsider how you've organised it.


Carl Barton is a director of Office Allsorts who has worked in the office products industry for 15 years.

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