The task of filing paperwork is often the most hated and avoided in any office. The same is true about our email inbox! The good news is that it’s not so hard as many people think to establish and maintain your filing when you have a system.
If you start your day by sitting at your cluttered desk or an inbox filled with unanswered emails, you set yourself up for an increased level of stress and lack of productivity from the beginning of your day. For most people (ourselves included), our personal lives are already filled with enough stress; adding to it doesn’t motivate us to get busy on our list of to-dos. You deserve to start your day refreshed and confident so you can be productive and make progress on completing your tasks.
An organized workspace—both physical and virtual—will give you confidence and a sense of empowerment, whereas a cluttered desk or inbox can make you feel lethargic and confused and will zap your creative energy!
So now you may wonder how a pile of disorganized paper can cause stress. The simple answer is not just procrastination; these pieces of paper and unanswered emails are actually deferred decisions. Each piece of paper or email in the stack is a reminder of something you need to support, which will inevitably stress you each time you see. If you do nothing, then that small molehill of paper you’ve create will grow into mountains of stress, leaving you feeling overwhelmed and uncertain where to start.
With a commitment to overcoming this situation, you need to know where to start and on what to work. The first step is to understand how simple it can be. Did you know there are only three types of files that you need? An effective classification system has only three types of files: action, reference and archival. Let’s take a look at the three types, and remember these are applicable to your inbox too!
Your action file is everything concerning the projects on which you’re working, which are the files you access frequently. Make sure these files are close to your office and you have easy access to refer to them so you can file them again after they’ve been used. Many of us save these types of electronic files on our desktop due to the fear of loss; but once you put them in place in an organizational system, you can let go of the fear!
With regard to your email, these action files can be tagged or flagged with the appropriate completion date as the due date. As well, you can set the reminder for the action to a time in advance when you’re able to complete the task in a reasonable time without missing the due date.
Reference files are not accessed as often as action files, but they’re still important files to which you need to hang on. These types of files need not necessarily be in your office, but they should not be too far away for easy access.
Your email inbox can be set up into subfolders labeled with easy-to-recognize or reference names allowing you to “file” the emails you would like to have available for future reference.
Files to Archive
The archived files are files that aren’t necessary with some regularity (or even at all). These files can be stored in a storage area or anywhere else where they’ll be safe.
Most email software applications come with an auto-archiving feature. You just need to make sure you enable it and apply the correct settings for your specific situation.
All three types of files are important for you and your office to stay organized and on top of tasks to be completed. But what about sharing the information with other individuals? With today’s technology we have the ability to share electronic files and physical files pretty easily. One of the more recent technological organizational support features is cloud file sharing. The benefits, of course, are numerous. The investment is dependent on the specific needs of the individual or organization wanting to implement the use of a cloud file sharing system; and yes, there are even a few “cons” with regard to electronic file sharing.
For your business, you need to really consider how much value a shared filing system will bring and how it will increase your effectiveness as well as your efficiency. The cloud file sharing is not all that different from your physical business resource library. The value it brings will depend on how much effort and thought you put into the original setup and layout. Think: how long have you wasted looking for specific files or business material? It’s easy to imagine how much more productive all members of your team could be if they could quickly and easily access the files they need. This is one of those times when the upfront investment of time and resources is necessary for the system or organizational tool to truly be beneficial. Remember “Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail,” and it’s never more true than in this instance.
Additionally, a business will find that teamwork is enhanced when resources are easily shared among all team members; and when teamwork improves, so too does the output from the entire team—which results with an increase in effectiveness and an improved bottom line financially.
Finally, an excellent way to ensure the success of your new organizational filing system is to get as many people as possible on board with the implementation, having everyone provide his thoughts on how the process needs to be, what specific requirements any one team member might have, and allowing everyone to test and provide feedback along the way.
Having an organized business isn’t just a necessity for the Fortune 500 companies; it’s a necessity for the entrepreneur just starting out as well. Your ultimate success depends on how well-organized you are in the beginning; the more organized you are, the more motivated you are to complete tasks in a timely fashion, which results in greater success.
Until next time, embrace your inner wisdom.