Tips for your filing system from David Allen

For whatever paper filing you still have that hasn’t gone digital yet, here are tips from David Allen for setting up your paper filing system.

  • Keep general reference files at arms’ reach.
  • Have lots of fresh folders at hand.
  • Avoid the unnecessary complication of color-coding your files.
  • Label your files with an automatic labeler. This is faster for one-off labels than printing from your computer.
  • Get comfortable filing even a single piece of paper that you might want to refer to later.


11 Responses to “Tips for your filing system from David Allen”

  1. Douglas Gabbard says:

    And avoid hanging folders.

  2. Bob says:

    Methinks you mean *labeled* hanging folders.

    As a side note, I still use labeled hanging folders to subdivide the universe a bit; don’t throw any shoes at me; I think even David uses (at least) some categorization of file cabinets or drawers.

    But back to the point, hanging folders (as a physical mechanism) makes file folders ‘hang’ and slide. Just a small point of clarification.


  3. Chris says:

    David means file folders – 3x tab top file folders, usuallly only available in America (but brilliantly simplistic) – the idea being that if you can get them to stand up in the drawer (I had to convert my filing cabinet here in the UK coz they’re ALL hanging) then you can have a file per sheet of paper, and
    Or easily organise them alphabetically – plus, becaus they don’t have a hard metal ridge, you can whip the whole folder out and carry it.

  4. Alex says:

    Yes, there IS a stand-up kind of filing-system (I mean one that is not hanging) in Germany: navigate to

  5. Simon says:

    Another one from Germany:

  6. David Allen says:

    Nice to see the Germans have started to catch on to some flexibility and spontaneity! (Sort of kidding); but in truth, how long will it take the rest of the world to create pre-tabbed inexpensive folders to put stuff in, for short-term access???

  7. virens says:

    That is a very interesting post. Here are some thoughts that might be helpful.

    Here in Australia we have either crappy Crystaline folders, or woefully overpriced (but interesting):

    Well, neither of them seem to work…

    Speaking about a filing system for digital files, there are some options. On a HDD, the filing system (same as for paper) should not contain more than one directory/folder. And for internet stuff, seems to be a good solution (even with Android app).

  8. Michal Nowakowski says:

    C’mon, there must be a company which is selling (or importimg) that kind of folders in Europe. Not having a suitable filling system is The only one thing that stops me from being truly productive using GTD.

  9. Selin says:

    Excellent points Dawn. Lack of oaoinazatignrl skills can kill an online business. I had to work very hard at this skill and still do after 7 years of Internet Marketing. If you’re like me and tend to ignore keeping things organized for just a couple of months, it may take you twice that amount of time to fix or restore all the things that “fell through the cracks”. Believe me, I know!Thanks for the welcome reminder Dawn.Keep up the helpful posts.Bob

  10. Vale says:

    What the heck here in Italy this system it’s impossible to find.
    I had to adapt stuff we use to make tickler and general reference archive filing.
    Thanks god we are going almost paperless and a lot of my material is now digitally archived —huge thing, search instead of micromanaging to organize.

  11. Kate says:

    I’m also from Australia & have been frustrated by the limited range of folders/filing systems readily available. After a lengthy search, I found that the closest option was 5x tab top file folders from Officeworks. To label them I use 6mm tape & set the label length to the tab size so it fits.

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