Do you use the search function to locate documents on your computer? Does this ring true for you? Well, you are not alone!
I have witnessed many of my clients expend a huge amount of wasted energy sifting through duplicate copies to find that one document with the great lines. What happens when you cannot remember the name or where you saved the document? Often it comes down to two options.
Option 1: Make another copy of the document you did locate minus those great lines.
Option 2: Create a new document and hope you remember those great lines.
Yes, both options acquire the document you need; however, you contend with nonstop excessive duplication.
If your filing system isn’t fast, functional, and fun, you will resist the whole process.
- David Allen, Getting Things Done
Why and how of systems
- Why a system: Structure to achieve results
- How a system: Processes and procedures as guidelines to function efficiently
Think of a goal, a result you want to achieve. To reach a goal you need to establish a plan to achieve the results. For a plan to materialize systems need to be developed. Systems provide structure, consistency and routine. Processes and procedures are the mechanisms that give the systems structure and momentum to function. Without properly organized systems, chaos and confusion will always reign.
I have worked with many clients that painstakingly created a system by over using the search function to locate their documents. Many believe this is how a filing system works to track their documents. After explaining the why and how a system works, my clients began to understand the foundation to build their own systems. Several told me no one has ever explained the basic process and procedures of a filing system.
Many struggled for years with a system they created without any concept of how folders and files actually work together. Relief arose when the guidelines to develop a filing system became clear in a simple to follow pattern. The magic happens - clarity radiates why and how a system works. Suddenly time is saved locating information, zero duplication and most important, eliminated confusion. The struggle to locate documents is no longer a struggle.
Foundation of a filing system
An electronic filing system is constructed using the same principles as a manual filing system. The terms filing and folder can be confusing. A folder is the main topic or category; sub-folders fit within folder topic or category. Filing documents fit within the main folder and when necessary, filed into the correct topic or category sub-folder.
Foundation to build a filing system
- Write down your main topics or categories
- Create sub-folders for each main topic or category
- File documents that fit in the correct folder or sub-folder
Here is an example:
Sub-folders: bank statements, contracts, invoices
Filing (documents): monthly statement, client (contracts), invoices (bill payments)
Best practices set up your systems first
A properly set up filing system stops waste and speeds up locating the information you need. The purpose of all systems is to have structure that will provide consistency and concrete routines. The next time you have a plan to start a project, achieve a goal or business venture, remember to create your systems first to achieve your purpose.