Everyone should have a filing system, even if it's just a box you throw stuff into. Unclutterer suggests using business cards in these systems to make notes for reference, relieving you of having to remember things.
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Everyone's moving toward a paperless society. The digital revolution is undoubtedly friendlier for trees, electronic files are much easier to find and back up, and everyone saves on printing and mailing costs. However, there's always some paperwork you can't help getting in dead tree form. And some dinosaurs -- like me -- occasionally work best with paper. Here's how I've found a happy compromise for my physical and electronic filing needs, and perhaps how you might too.
A good filing cabinet organisation system is great, but if you don't need a full cabinet (or don't have space for one), weblog Unplggd offers a simple DIY solution.
Dear Lifehacker, I recently bought a $69 HP Deskjet F4480 in an effort to go paperless (it was cheaper to get a scanner/printer combo) and was wondering if there are any programs that let me scan from paper -> PDF? The device came with HP software, but I’d rather not install it (I want something that doesn’t take over my system).
You dread filing. You don't even own a file cabinet. You're allergic to labelling. Whatever the reason, maintaining a meticulously organised file system has eluded you. Throw it all in a box. Over at the productivity blog SimpleProductivity, they offer a suggestion that—by their own admission—is heresy to devotees of organisation:
Many people, otherwise competent and some even brilliant, cannot maintain a filing system. It has nothing to do with intelligence or organisation or even self-discipline. I'm convinced it's just the way they are wired.
Their suggestion? Throw everything in a box. Keep a box under your desk, near your work area, or where you sort your mail, and put everything in the box. Everything you would normally file or save for potential future use goes into the box: pay stubs, paid bills, receipts and such all piled into the box as they appear. At the end of the year, you sit down and shred everything that you won't need in future years and then simply write the year on the box in bold print and throw it on a shelf somewhere. While this system is completely antithetical to the systems that many of us use, ot's a by-the-year filing system could easily meet the simple filing needs of many people. It's also an approach that—despite its potential shortcomings—is still Better than Nothing, which is what most of us attracted to this method are likely to do. Whether you're horrified or not, sound off in the comments. Photo by Jonbro.Filing Heresy: One Box Filing
Businesses have policies for how long records and paperwork are to be held—and you should, too. Cut down on the clutter in your office by establishing rules for handling paperwork. Over at the organizational blog Ian's Messy Desk, Ian has several great tips on reducing office clutter. Chief among them is creating a record retention policy.
Despite technological advances, there are certain files, such as personnel records and corporate documents, that you'll need to keep for extended periods of time. To manage this process, you'll need a record retention plan. How this policy reads will vary depending on local laws.
It isn't effective or practical to keep paperwork beyond the point where it is required by law or directly benefits you—so goodbye five-year-old cable bills. Ian's process starts by assigning a rule and duration for each type of document in one's "active" pile, then consolidating and organisng your archive boxes with destroy-by dates. That way, your clean-out sessions allow you to quickly and confidently shred, burn, or shoot the documents into a lower earth orbit. Photo by Marcin Wichary.Eight Ways to Keep Your Office Clutter Free
Weblog Apartment Therapy describes how to create a table of contents for your file cabinets to help make your filing system cleaner and easier to use. It's actually a very simple idea: You just print the different folder tab names of your file cabinet onto a piece of paper you can place on top of your cabinet to give you a quick overview of what's inside. The biggest hurdle to a clear, organised paper filing system is a lack of easy access, and Apartment Therapy's simple table of contents method attempts to remove one more boundary to easy filing. If you're serious about fixing up your filing cabinets, check out our extreme filing cabinet makeover.How To: Create a Table of Contents for Your Files
If you've got a shelf full of bulky binders, blogger Tim Fehlman says you can consolidate them using Chicago screws, which fit into regular paper punch holes:
They are flat and allow you to get rid of the extra space that is taken up by partially empty binders, covers, etc. We figure that we have reduced the amount of space that our documents use by about 60%.
With Chicago screw binding your pages turn more like a book that doesn't quite lay flat, so this sounds best for documents you don't need to remove or rearrange easily. They're also cheaper than full-on binders for document archiving, too.Archive Documents with Chicago Screws
Lifehacker reader Mike came up with a cheap, handy solution to the problem of hanging folders sliding back and forth every time he opened a filing drawer. By attaching some basic binder clips to his drawer's folder rails, his folders are no longer victim to the forces of momentum, and files he wants to keep within quick reach stay that way. Add folder management to a growing list of clip-enabled DIY solutions—including a makeshift cable catcher, toothpaste tube maintainer and, of course, Merlin Mann's Hipster PDA. Binder clips—is there anything they can't do? Photo provided by Mike.
With the popularity of sites like del.icio.us and YouTube, tagging has become (for better or sometimes worse) a standard feature of nearly every site on the internet, and virtually everyone has a pretty fair idea what tagging is and how to use tags online. But the latest operating systems from Apple and Microsoft also have tagging built into their filesystems, meaning that the same basic tagging ideas available online are also available for the files on your hard drive. It sounds like an excellent idea in theory, but it doesn't seem as though offline tagging is taking hold. So we're wondering.