Sunday, March 4, 2012

How to find an organization scheme for documents

These days, we seem to be buried by things to organize - especially when it comes to paper, documents and bookmarks. We always say that we can't ever seem to find anything despite our best efforts!

Here is an idea: why not develop a plan for your paper and electronic documents? Some people develop a plan for one but neglect the other. This way, you know that if you have education related folders in the filing cabinet you also have them labelled the same way on your computer.

Here are some tips that I have learned over the past years when it comes to organization documents:
  1. Think of how you use these documents now and in the future. For example, if you are in school now you might not be in three years. So those files won't be used as often as they are now but you still want them in a place where you can find them.
  2. Also consider which documents you use often versus those that you don't. For example, you always need to find your taxes, paystubs and bills quickly versus old drawings that you did when you were five.
  3. Create a very basic organization plan. Use general headings and very easy organization. Here is a sample:
    • Learning applies to all levels of schooling, careers and jobs and research so all folders relating to these topics can go in this general group.
    • Self-Improvement applies to topics like finances, health, beauty, fashion, weight loss, etc. So all documents relating to these topics can go into this larger grouping. 
    • Planning applies to topics house/home, children, travel, holidays, car, etc. So all documents relating to anything that requires planning can go here. 
    • Entertainment includes all documents relating to movies, music, hobbies and any type of entertainment.
  4. Keep documents within three levels. This is an easy way to track your documents and a basic rule when it comes to web design as well. Here are a few samples:
    • Learning >> University >> Year 1
    • Learning >> Career >> Name of Employer
    • Self-Improvement >> Finances
    • Self-Improvement >> Health >> Menu Plans
    • Planning >> House >> Renovation 2008
    • Planning >> Holidays >> Christmas
    • Entertainment >> Movies >> Movie Stubs
    • Entertainment >> Hobbies >> Knitting 
  5. Use this plan for electronic and paper versions of your documents. Apply this to your bookmarks, electronic filing system and paper filing system. This becomes very useful because once it is in place, you know will have an idea of where to find something three years from now as well as tomorrow. 
  6. Write up your plan. Create a document that lists how your files are organized, both paper and electronic. This will help you out in the future.
  7. Put the plan into practice. Take an afternoon or two to put the documents into folders organized according to your plan.  
Hopefully, these tips are helpful for you to weed through those piles of documents and papers that you have.


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