You always want to seem composed, cool, and collected at the office. Even if your mind is scattered with a long list of to-dos, your workspace doesn’t have to show it. Disorganization can cost you a lot of time. One of your most important tasks is organizing files at work in the most efficient and effective way. Don’t waste your time hunting through piles to find what you’re looking for. Instead, try these six ways of implementing a filing system that’s easy to maintain and sure to save you countless minutes (or hours) each day.
1. Organize by Project
Organize your paperwork by project rather than by person to help cut back on the time it takes you to locate up-to-date information when you’re in a crunch. If you’re part of the workflow for the company’s employee recognition banquet, keep all the files pertaining to that event in one key location. Separate those files from unrelated contracts or invoices. When your boss asks for an update on the banquet planning, that’s no problem since you know exactly where to find the most recent information without having to spend additional time hunting in a panic.
2. Go Digital
Revise your filing system by eliminating bulky paper files where appropriate. Can files be stored digitally? Are you duplicating files as a result of a poor filing system? You may be able to cut down on files and folders you’ve used in the past.
Label your digital files intuitively, so you can quickly browse archives via search keywords. You don’t have time to spare as you search your entire desktop for the small piece of information you need at the next weekly round-up. When you name each digital folder, be specific. The files in “Lunch and Learns Q2 2017” will be a lot easier to find in a rush than in a generic folder called “Food Orders.”
3. Use the Cloud to Share Documents
Capitalize on digital storage to share files with your coworkers instantly. Say goodbye to repetitive trips to the scanner, copier, or printer every time you leave your desk to distribute files. That’s a waste of time and breaks your concentration. With cloud-based systems like Google Drive or Dropbox, it’s never been easier to share digital files. The cloud cuts down your desk clutter, and saves you time since you don’t have to leave your workspace to share documents.
Just like you would organize your email inbox into folders based on individual coworkers or projects, organize your shareable drive with digital folders that everyone can access with minimal effort anytime, anywhere. Just make sure you allow the proper permissions to keep everything safe and secure.
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4. Highlight Actionable Work First
Your to-do list might have eight items listed, but can all tasks be completed this very moment? It’s possible that some items are awaiting clarification before you take action. There’s no need for those files to be cluttering your workspace in the meantime. Identify tasks that can be completed now by highlighting actionable work first in one folder.
Place tabled items in other folders labeled “items to be discussed” or “waiting on response.” These are tasks that need to be handed off, reports that need to be given, or files that are pending until further action. Check back on these items every few days for outstanding actions to see if you can move forward. Implementing a system like this ensures you’re not wasting precious time doubling back on work that can’t be addressed anyway. It’ll also help you be prepared and save you from stress in the event that a collaboration meeting is moved up on short notice.
5. Divide Your Desk Into Zones
Perhaps one of the simplest ways to organize files at work is to establish “zones.” Your desk is a dumping ground for paperwork and miscellaneous files. Guard against your own insanity by designating key areas for files in your workspace. Create your main workspace (your desk) and a holding or reference area nearby (shelves, baskets, binders, or filing cabinets) available for quick access when needed.
Cut back on clutter and chaos by allocating a supply area so that your extra pens and manila folders aren’t intermingling with your printed expense reports from Q1. Remember that sometimes the easiest way to win back a few minutes of your day is to commit to an organizational system that protects your sanity.
6. Keep It Moving
Be sure to separate completed and ongoing work. If you’re no longer working with certain files, move them to the spot where you store completed work. Block a quick 10 minutes out of your schedule each week to use this method effectively. If you wait until your desk becomes unrecognizable, you’ll waste an entire day cleaning it up. And who has that kind of time? This is a perfect system to help track your productivity and implement small wins into your workday. Everyone knows nothing feels better than crossing an item off your to-do list. Moving one item from “ongoing” to “completed” has the same rewarding effect.
Finding a method to successfully organize files at work can be a daunting task — and one you’re not necessarily jazzed about adding to your already crowded to-do list. But maintaining an effective organization system saves time, adding valuable minutes (or hours) to your week. Give a few of these strategies a go and see how it supports your workflow in a positive way.
What are a few tried and true ways you organize files at work? Let us know your paperwork hacks on Twitter!