My filing system: it’s unique!

I love to read about getting organized. I love to find out how other people are doing it.

Like when all their work is stacked up under their desk and they dive under and sort through the mess to find the one paper they need.

I admit, it could be a little dry. But somehow it reveals a very personal side of people, proving that we know less about them than we had thought.

Or everything has been scanned onto their computer and they’ve gone paperless. How prestigious! I don’t think I know anyone who has achieved this.

I’m proud to say that my current stack of papers to be filed is only about two inches thick. And my tax receipts are all filed away.

But I do have a filing quirk so unusual—and for me, so effective—that I’ve got to share.

I maintain a separate file for each project and I place the files in order of currency. In other words, the more recently I have worked on a project, the closer its file is to the front of the drawer.

I have a broad classification by drawer: current projects, official and financial papers, past tax returns and medical, and hardcopy writing samples (of less interest with each passing year).

As I start a new project, I place the file at the front of the drawer. As I work on a project, its folder is returned to the front of the drawer and everything else automatically moves to the back.

Most of my work is on current projects and I can easily find the folder. This works really well at keeping my desk somewhat clean. I put the papers I am using in the front of the file and easily file it at the front of the drawer. And back when I worked in official business offices, I could clean up and leave for the day with only a moment’s preparation.

I admit, the system is weakest when I need to find something I haven’t worked on in ages. I may have to shuffle through quite a few files.

It is strongest when I am working solely on current projects.

I like this system because it avoids a conundrum I have never solved, even when I was a graduate student in library science decades ago: How do you label files so that the headings are meaningful and you can easily retrieve them when they have been put away in alphabetical order?

You’ll note that my system entirely avoids alphabetizing. This means I don’t have to decide if a file should be labeled “Filing system, blog” or “Blog: filing” or “System, filing, blog.” (Yuck.)

I also bought colored file folders. The colors stand for absolutely nothing. They just add a bit of visual interest when I pull open the drawer.

My system is a little different but for me, it works. What does that reveal about me?

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4 responses to “My filing system: it’s unique!

  1. You’re optimizing for the common case.

    It’s actually a big design issue with operating systems and databases: do you organize things so the most common situations are served most quickly, or do you make it so every request is served with decent (and relatively equal) speed even if it’s unusual?

  2. Lisa (lablady)

    What does it say about you? That you have not only recognized your way of thinking but have acknowledged it by creating a filing system that works for YOU. I think it’s great!

    Me, personally? Sometimes, I feel like a flamethrower would be the most appropriate filing system. Son and husband come in with all sorts of papers for me and just plop them down and the pile grows ridiculously quickly, covering up my own files. Between mail, school papers, notifications, “read this, Mom” flyers, “Can you look this up for me, hon?” notes…well, you can now understand that by the end of the week, I want a frakking flamethrower! The POWER! Muwahahaha. Oops, sorry…always get caught up in that vision. 🙂

    I do file things alphabetically but I also separate them into those larger “box-like” folder holders: Personal (gift ideas, home improvement, letters, son’s medical papers), Professional (queries, blog, stories, articles, freelance info.) with a completely separate one for Resumes (clients). Just to name a few. We keep all tax info., bill info. separately in its own section of the file bench. The current files I keep on my desk, other rarely-used files are kept in file bench.

    I think the best thing to do is name the file not for someone else to find but for YOU to find. Let go of what it “should” be named, name it whatever the heck you want! “My blog posts” “To file” “To go through” Don’t be afraid to write a phrase or instruction rather than just one or two disconnected words. It’s much easier to listen to your own voice and file your own way. 😉

    Kudos to you for paying attention to your self!

  3. Ultimately, we are responsible to ourselves for finding our papers . . . and for walking thru our offices without stumbling over something.

    Are you familiar with Flylady.net? Fascinating discussions of housekeeping (which she calls Home Blessing) and organizing. Keeping track of bills is especially important. Flylady recommends keeping them in her “office in a bag” so they are ready to be paid any time you return to your paperwork. Now that we have online bill paying, I like to schedule payments as soon as I receive a bill, even if the payment won’t go out for awhile

  4. I once read about a large mail-order fulfillment center that stored products by popularity, even if that meant violating natural groups. For instance, size 12 jeans may be kept close to the fulfillment counter while size 2 jeans of the same style may be stored out in the boonies. Of course, they had a computerized program to manage what would otherwise be an unmanageable mess.

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