Clare Kumar: Piles or Files? Managing paper in the office

When setting up a system to organize things in your office, you need to assess

-        The space available

-        The nature of material you need to store

-        The frequency with which you must access the items

-        The length of time you must store the items, and last but not least

-        Your preferences

Neglect the last element at your peril for you may end up with an organized system…that works for someone else!  There is no one right way to organize things, but if you share materials with others, you do have to find something that works for the majority.

If you have a tendency to pile papers on your desk, go with it, but remember to keep urgent and important items from becoming buried.  As with any system, respect the limits of your space by managing the piles’ height and footprint.

If you prefer filing, make sure that your filing storage pieces are easy enough to access.  Edit files or create more storage before it becomes difficult to manipulate files.

Arranging piles or files by topic, and labelling them clearly will speed up retrieval.  Here are some options for both practices:

Filers will want to consider:

-        a desktop step sorter for active files

-        a portable file folder or rolling cart if you need to move files around

-        a mobile carrier for the car

-        lateral filing cabinets which, if low enough, can also serve as a place to put printers and scanners

-        under the desk cabinets for more limited footprints

-        file boxes and shelving for archiving

-        water-tight file boxes or fire proof safes for sensitive documents

Pilers have these options:

-        using trays for inboxes and active files

-        dividing piles with labelled file folders or tabs, or piling different topics in opposite directions

-        lateral sorters

-        go vertical by clipping piles to a wall mounted magnetic or cork board

-        spreading papers out in piles per topic – if you’ve got the surface space

You may well find you have different approaches for different types of information. I file some things and pile others, so have many of the above solutions at play in my office. The important thing is to be able to remember where you’ve put things and make sure you can retrieve them when you need them.

Do you creative paper management solutions to share?

Clare Kumar is the founder and Chief Organizer at Streamlife, an organizing company. Clare works with business owners and employees to drive greater productivity and peace of mind through better organization at work and at home. An industry expert, Clare also creates new products to help people remove the ‘bumps’ from their day. If there’s something you do every day that’s slowing you down, she wants to hear from you.

By Adam

November 05, 2012