Filing is one of those jobs that people tend to dislike, but whether you are running a home and a family or working from home, there is filing to be done – it’s just a fact of life.
Filing is a hard job to get done because there is no real short term benefit that we can easily see. We only appreciate it when we need to find something – otherwise it’s one of those jobs that we can get away with leaving for a while at least.
Most of us tend to make life more difficult for ourselves than we really need to when it comes to filing – and this post aims to take the mystery out of it by identifying and creating solutions for the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to filing.
Are you ready to find out if you do any of these things…..?
Filing Mistake #1 – Filing Everything And Anything
By not understanding what is and isn’t important in your paperwork – or through fear of getting rid of something that may be required one day – we end up filing every bit of paperwork that comes into our lives.
When this happens, it not only takes up far too much room, but also makes us far less likely to be able to find the important stuff when we need it.
In todays world, we can get instant access to so much of our information online, that it should be questioned at every stage whether paperwork is really needed to be kept.
I suggest that filing cabinets should have all the important paperwork you need to keep hold of – home and family documents etc… – and only that.
Always question whether you are filing because you really will need to keep a document, or just because you think you should – and that should start to help with how much you file away – and therefore how easy your filing can be.
Related: Need to know how long to keep your paperwork for? find out HERE
Filing Mistake #2 – Not Being Able To Find Things
How long would it take you to find your last car service documentation?, or your birth certificate?
If the answer is any more than a couple of minutes, that’s too long.
Each time you have to search for something may not feel like much – but they can add up to be a huge waste of time over the course of a year – (1 item lost a day that takes 10 mins to find adds up to 3,650 mins lost over a year – over 60 hours!) so you want to make things as easy as possible to find – and more importantly, not to lose.
There are three main ideas that you will want to look at when setting up your filing so that you can find things – creating a system that works for you, creating specific categories, and colour coding. Let’s look at each one in more detail: –
Creating a system that works for you:-
You may believe that you need to have a proper filing cabinet if you are going to get sorted once and for all – but if you don’t have the space or the budget for one, it doesn’t have to stop there.
Grab yourself a set of ring binders and label the spines with specific categories relevant to what you will file in each ( for example, CAR, HOUSE, BANK, BILLS, SCHOOL, etc….) add them all onto a shelf that ideally sits near where you sort out your paperwork, and you have created a really useable and easy to manage filing system (you can create dividers in each file to create subcategories as well).
Be creative with the space and budget you have, and you can get a filing system that works for you.
Creating filing categories:-
It’s all about creating the right categories for what you need, and being as specific as you want to be – so that when you come to open your filing cabinet, its set up in the most intuitive way for you and how you think.
I like to create quite general files – such as “CAR”. This at least means that you are going to be able to find all car related documents in this one file and only have to go through those documents to find what you need.
However, if you prefer a more detailed filing system, and have the room (more files take up more space), then why not break categories down further. Setting up a selection of car related categories in your filing can mean you can put your hands on the exact item you need really quickly.
For example – “CAR – Insurance”, “CAR-MOT”, “CAR – Servicing”, “CAR – Finance”.
Both the general file and the more detailed files are good ways to work, and have their own advantages and disadvantages, but work with what works best for you and you will find that you use it much more.
Colour coded filing:-
You may also want to create different colours for different items – for example, green can be all financial related files, red for bills, black for important documents such as birth and marriage certificates, blue are house related etc…. – or have a colour per person in the household.
Basically – create a logical system for how you think and work – and that way you will find filing much more easy a task.
Filing Mistake #3 – Filing Under “Miscellaneous”
If you have ever set up a filing system of any kind – or in fact done sorting of any kind – you will be more than aware that there comes a point when you have items that don’t really fit in any categories that you have created.
I call this “junk drawer syndrome“.
Little bits and bobs that are not one thing or another – but are needed and are useful – that you always seem to have in any space or room you try to organise. We all have at least one drawer or cupboard that houses all this “stuff”.
It can come about when you get to the end of the time spent sorting everything, and weariness sets in. At this point a miscellaneous pile makes perfect sense. After all, we can always check in this when we can’t find something – as it’s bound to be in there.
Basically, a miscellaneous pile can create more chaos than it’s worth. It is no better really than a pile of papers in the corner of your living room when it comes to getting yourself more organised, and will you really want to check what will no doubt become the biggest pile in your filing cabinet every time you misplace something?
TIP – you may want to consider whether the filing cabinet is the right place for other things you class as miscellaneous. Are you keeping certificates there that would actually be better placed in a memory box or framed on the wall? Think about whether you are filing things to be out of the way, rather than because you actually need them filed.
Filing Mistake #4 – Not Keeping On Top Of Things
A great filing system is only great if you can, at any given time, find what you are looking for.
If you constantly have a massive pile of things waiting to be filed, then you aren’t helping yourself.
This will become the place you look for things first – and you will therefore waste time each time you have to hunt.
Try and give yourself a few minutes regularly to file things away, and you will save time overall.
15 minutes a week should be enough for most family’s filing needs once a good system has been set up. This time can be to file away new items, get rid of anything that the new paperwork has superseded, and ensure things are tidy.
Schedule in those 15 minutes just like you would any other appointment. Usually the end of the week (last thing Friday if you work from home, or over the weekend) works best so you can start fresh the next week.
Filing Mistake #5 – Not Having A Regular Purge Of Your Files
Following on from where number 4 left off, purging your filing is all important to keeping it manageable.
So many people just keep filing on top of previously filed items, without giving a thought to whether that previous stuff is actually needed any longer.
Here’s a link to a post I did on how long you should keep your important documents for – and after that time, they can be shredded and destroyed safely.
Your filing cabinet should not just keep growing……
TIP – every time you file a document that is something that takes over from the last document (i.e. car insurance for this year, warranties etc…) – then ensure that you simply check and remove anything that is no longer relevant or has run out of time. This will keep your purging quick and easy, and makes a great habit to stay organised!
Filing Mistake #6 – Not Creating A Backup
I am bad at this myself (it’s a project I need to tackle this year – watch this space!) – but ask yourself what you would do if your home was to burn down in a fire?
Do you have backups/copies of all your important documents somewhere?
Not creating a backup of files can leave you very exposed if something happens to the original.
The easiest option to tackle this is to scan all important documents and keep a copy in a couple of places (although not both in your home as this still causes issues if that fire were to happen….).
I suggest Dropbox or some similar place so you can access securely wherever you are (this is also really useful if you are travelling abroad, as you can get access to documents if you need to quickly and easily), and/or put them on a CD and give to a trusted friend/family member/solicitor for safe keeping.
The best filing system is all about creating easy access to your important documents – wherever you are and whatever happens.
That’s the lot! – 6 Filing Mistakes that are making your life harder than it needs to be…
So, next time you tackle your filing – whether it’s simply to add in the paperwork build up from the past few weeks, or you want to completely streamline your paperwork – think carefully about whether you’re making any of these mistakes currently, and how you can avoid making them going forward.