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How do I setup a great filing system?

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  • How do I setup a great filing system?

    OK, I did read the stuff in GTD on setting up a filing system, but it doesn't go into much detail on exactly what to call my files. Assuming I have a labeler, and a ton of manilla files, what next? It recommends a simple A-Z file system, but does that mean I just randomly decide what to call each file, label it, and then file in alpha order?

    If there is any other (more detailed) info out there on how to setup an effective file system, please let me know.

    Thanks!

    Dave

  • #2
    What will you call it later?

    OK, I did read the stuff in GTD on setting up a filing system, but it doesn't go into much detail on exactly what to call my files.

    When I file a paper in a manila folder I label it using the following formula:

    "If I were tired, and it was the middle of the night, and I needed this piece of paper, what would I call it?"

    I've found that when I do this, I discover a one-two word answer that I type up and tape to the folder.

    Also, the one piece you're missing here is this:

    You'll be "in" those files almost daily, and when you're in them, it will be more and more intuitive what to call them, and how to retrieve them.

    Hope that helps.

    Comment


    • #3
      Good enough is good enough.

      Don't try to implement the perfect system. It is an eternal trap. Implement the filing system that is good enough for you.
      Good enough is good enough

      Comment


      • #4
        RE: planning vs getting started:

        "The worst enemy of a good plan is the dream of the perfect plan."

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by eDave
          It recommends a simple A-Z file system, but does that mean I just randomly decide what to call each file, label it, and then file in alpha order?
          If you decide what to call each file, it's not random.

          This is important.

          Your filing system will necessarily be personalized to you. Everyone has a personal naming system (just like some people call carbonated beverages "soda," some call them "pop," some call them "coke," etc.).

          Thus, there is no universal naming system. What makes immediate sense to me won't make immediate sense to you, and what matters is to make a system that makes immediate sense to you.

          Jason's principle is excellent, in my opinion.

          Yes, this requires a certain amount of concentration. It's not necessarily easy. It shouldn't necessarily be easy.

          Comment


          • #6
            A great solution to the filing problem

            About 3 years ago, I was overwhelmed by paper files and bought a bigger file cabinet to handle it all. As I was starting from scratch, I also decided to explore new "systems". I'm happy to say that I found a fairly inexpensive system that has worked for me when absolutely nothing else did! It's called "Paper Tiger" and basically it's software where you list whatever you are filing in numbered folders. To locate something only requires typing in a keyword and hitting one search button. If this product has a down side, I've not found it. Never again will I lose anything or waste time trying to find it.

            I think the website is www.papertiger.com and, if I remember correctly, you can try it for free.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Barb in Texas
              I think the website is www.papertiger.com and, if I remember correctly, you can try it for free.
              I assume http://www.thepapertiger.com/ is the appropriate site.

              Yours
              Alexander

              Comment


              • #8
                I'm not trying to be combative here; I'm geniunely curious because I honestly don't understand this.

                How is it more efficient to go to the computer, open an application, type a few letters, then locate the appropriate file in your filing cabinet, compared to just opening your filing cabinet(s) and glancing at your files?

                I have four drawers full of files, and it takes me about four seconds to find a file. If I can't remember its name, it takes me no more than ten seconds to find it.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Brent
                  How is it more efficient to go to the computer, open an application, type a few letters, then locate the appropriate file in your filing cabinet, compared to just opening your filing cabinet(s) and glancing at your files?
                  I haven't used this kind of system, but I think its advantage isn't so much efficiency in simple file retrieval. I think the advantage is being able to know what you have filed when you're away from your filing cabinet -- and be able to decide on files that need to be purged without rifling through the physcial cabinet.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Ask yourself what you want to maximize and minimize?

                    If you have to get a lot of stuff you want to get into folders that are now in piles just use A to Z. You can use a main heading on the folders if you have several similar items like Banks:Scott Trust and Banks: National Fiduciary. If you get a whole lot of Banks like 10 or so, you might make one drawer just banks.

                    If you want to keep track of these A to Z file heads easily. Memor in Palm with sort A to Z (you can set it up on your desk or lap top).

                    If everything is in folders and you can't locate it it fast enough or need to work on the internal organization or your system. Tha might be as simple as having some dummy folders that tell you were to look (e.g., Scott Trust see Banks).

                    Suggestion: separate financial, personal and health. File all people, even your loved ones by last name.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Thanks for the reply! Unfortunately, I'm still confused.

                      Originally posted by fossicker
                      I think the advantage is being able to know what you have filed when you're away from your filing cabinet
                      How is this different than the "normal" filing system? I know what's in my "normal" A-Z filing system right now.

                      and be able to decide on files that need to be purged without rifling through the physcial cabinet.
                      Why would you need to do this? What's the purpose of figuring this out in advance, when you need to be at the filing cabinet to do it anyway?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Yes, and more!

                        I have always had a problem in REMEMBERING how I might have filed something. I had tried A-Z and just about everything else, and always ended up spending precious time NOT finding things. Purging is certainly simpler too. I also use this program to list and assign a location to my fairly large library of "books I can't live without". I assigned a "location" in the software to each shelf. I can't tell you how many times I bought the same book twice! My next project will be to get a handle on my cd's and my "to read" pile. If I list a little something about the article I've saved (and the date I put it in there), I can decide at a glance if I still give a rip about reading it when I have some time to do so. I really just love this program.

                        Originally posted by fossicker
                        I haven't used this kind of system, but I think its advantage isn't so much efficiency in simple file retrieval. I think the advantage is being able to know what you have filed when you're away from your filing cabinet -- and be able to decide on files that need to be purged without rifling through the physcial cabinet.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Paper Tiger organizes by tags not catagories

                          Originally posted by Brent
                          Thanks for the reply! Unfortunately, I'm still confused < ... about Paper Tiger>
                          I have not used the software. From what I have read, Paper Tiger is a tags based software that classifies items under multiple tags rather than categories. You simply associate the physical location of the file (marked by a number) to multiple descriptive tags. Numbers are used rather than names so you can have a very large number of physical files.

                          Randy Stokes explains it in great detail in his post here .

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            See another thread that has been written on this subject already

                            Yep, this has been tackled before at
                            http://www.davidco.com/forum/showthr...=filing+system

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I use separate systems for personal, business/professional, and reference.

                              I cluster my personal files under subject domains, such as:

                              • art & creativity
                              • art & culture
                              • body
                              • charity
                              • education
                              • finances
                              • food
                              • home
                              • medical & health
                              • mind
                              • office
                              • people
                              • etc.
                              For general reference, I use an A-Z system. Large, reasonably self-contained categories (In my case, "Information Security" is an example) have their own dedicated reference systems.

                              If I can't readily think of a suitable subject heading I file the item by "source" (publication, book, agency, etc.) by default then use cataloging software (InfoHandler by MDE Software) to maintain cross-refences to various subjects. I view this approach as a modification of using serial numbered file folders. It has the advantage that I'm likely to find the file I'm looking for by looking in the file drawer first and need resort to my electronic catalog only if I can't find the file. Since I print out a copy of my file index from time to time, I almost never have to consult the electronic version.

                              By assigning an arbitrary number of subjects to a file, a tagging or cross-referencing strategy takes into account that -- if you're like me -- you'll probably be looking for a particular file in different contexts -- e.g., for different purposes -- at various times.
                              Originally posted by TestTeq
                              Don't try to implement the perfect system. It is an eternal trap. Implement the filing system that is good enough for you.
                              An important point. You will have to accept some arbitrariness no matter what system you use. My advice: Just try to be arbitrary in a consistent way.
                              Last edited by mscudder; 07-13-2005, 01:30 PM.

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