Use A Four-Folder System To Prioritise All Your Paperwork

Use A Four-Folder System To Prioritise All Your Paperwork

Paperwork is almost always a hassle. Avoid the stacks of junk and keep things moving with this four-folder system to prioritise every piece of paper you have to touch.

Photo by Phil

As organisation blog Organised Creatives explains, just about every piece of paper you have to deal with can be sorted into one of four categories: Hot, Bills, To Review and Inspiration. Each folder has a defined purpose (as well as a different timeline on when to review them):

1. Hot: In this folder, put anything you need to address in the next few days, such as background on a new client project that you need to review or a coupon that you don’t want to forget for an upcoming oil change.

2. Bills: In this folder, put any bills that you receive in the mail, or which you receive via email but want to retain a paper copy.

3. To Review: In this folder, put anything that you don’t need to deal with right now, but that you do need to process eventually, such as a tax receipt that needs to be entered or a magazine that you want to read.

4. Inspiration: In this folder, put anything that inspires you and which you don’t want to lose. Interviews with other creatives you admire. Ideas that may some day mature into new projects. Ads for vacations you may want to take someday. As creatives, it’s important to gather the stuff that inspires us, and review these periodically.

The key detail is how often you come back to each one. Hot implies what its name suggests: you need to deal with this immediately, so Organised Creatives recommends reviewing this folder every day. Bills should be checked once or twice a month, To Review every week, and Inspiration is something you can come back to once every quarter or so. You don’t need those papers all the time, but you should probably check back at some point to see if they matter.

Long-term storage is another matter, but for the stuff coming across your desk, this system should handle just about everything you need.

A Simple Four-Folder System [Organised Creatives via Rockstar Finance]


  • I’d need to check Bills more often than once or twice a month.
    My Inspiration folder would get large very quickly.

  • I like the system and would add one more folder (5 seems a better number, anyway…) that is for ‘keepers’. I’ve built up several folders of keepers over the years. These are for small items, one or two sheets of paper per item, that I want to keep for the medium to long term, and its the original paper that’s important, although I do scan them too.
    It might just seem sentimental or hoarding, but I’ve found these folders very useful, having had good reason to go back to them from time to time.

  • My boss at one stage of my career had three trays: prawns, pizza and pumpkin. Prawns go off very quickly, pizza lasts longer and pumpkins last for ages.

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