As a small business owner, you need to be able to operate at your desk swiftly and easily. Though setting up a filing system sounds difficult, it is a relatively easy task that can be made easier by a few filing tips and tricks.
(1) Sit at your desk for a few minutes and figure out where you will instinctively look for things.
I have a drawer to the right of my workstation. When I first set up my filing system, I didn’t have anything in it. When I would look for stamps, paperclips or my stapler, it was the first place I would look, even though I knew it was empty. So naturally I put the stamps, paperclips and stapler in that drawer. For me, it was the natural home for those items.
Everyone will approach this differently, and what works for me may not work for you. Take a few minutes to sit down at your primary workspace and reach for equipment, supplies and files. That will help you establish the idea spot for filing those items for you personally.
(2) Now that you know where you will naturally look for information, you must determine whether an alphabetical, numerical or subject filing system will work best for you.
Do you search for things according to the client’s name? The category (i.e. expenses, financial, marketing)? By reference number? This is a critical step, as it will determine how you will lay out your filing system. Do this before you buy anything for your filing system.
(3) Next, roughly determine your storage needs.
Do you have a large number of files that you access on a daily basis? Do you only access your files weekly? The answers will determine if you need a desktop file holder, a two drawer filing cabinet close to your desk or a four drawer lateral filing cabinet across the room. So many options exist today, that you should choose carefully. Allow for growth when looking at filing cabinets - buy something to accommodate twice the files you think you will have now. This will limit the number of times you will have to resort and reorganize your filing system.
(4) Invest in a good labelling system for clarity and easy access.
Being able to read the file labels sounds obvious, but clarity in labelling will save you more filing time than you can imagine. Most companies who make labels provide templates that integrate with the most popular word processing software. You may want to consider one of the small label making systems that can now also print out individual mailing labels. Items that perform double duty are usually a wise investment.
(5) Now you are ready to purchase file folders.
The best investment I have found is to purchase colored hanging folders (make sure the plastic label tabs are included) and plain manila file folders for my filing system. I use colored hanging folders for two reasons: (1) easily available and (2) ease of recognition for categories. For example, all my client files are in yellow hanging folders, blue folders contain financial information and red is for marketing. This way, I can see roughly where I should be searching for a particular file.
The KISS principle applies to setting up a filing system that is easy to use and easy to grow with. Keep It Simple Sweetheart! Broad subject categories will allow you to easily add new files as you grow, and will eliminate the need to upgrade or reorganize your filing system on a regular basis.
Contributed by Jill Chongva of VADiva.com. An experienced Virtual Assistant Diva, Jill provides project support, virtually, to a wide range of clients, including Coaching Professionals, Small Business Owners and other Virtual Assistants. Call Jill at (204) 470 8284.