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How to Improve Your Filing System – Part 1

A well-organised filing system is a must for any organisation

If you are looking to improve your filing system then you have found the right article. Before we go any further, however, it is important to understand why you should make use of and maintain a filing system.


The Benefits of a Good Filing System

Information is the lifeblood of any organisation. Thus, it is vital to not only have access to all needed information but also to be able to access it efficiently and protect it.

Lost documents waste countless production hours. Documents that get irreparably damaged, not only cause losses in production time but can also give rise to legal situations.

The solution to this and other issues related to record keeping is to improve your filing system. Doing this unlocks a number of important benefits including:

  • Increase efficiency by making documents and records easily accessible
  • Preserve your records and keep them up to date and complete
  • Improve the exchange of information throughout your organisation through standardised filing systems
  • Improve record retention and destruction compliance by organising records according to retention periods


Create a Blueprint to Improve Your Filing System

A filing system does not consist of putting your documents in a folder and then filing it alphabetically in a filing cabinet. While this may be better than accumulating documents on desks, it is still not good enough.

A proper filing system is a carefully planned organisation of documents and records. As such there are many components that must be considered. These components include:

  • Guides, Folders and File Labeling
  • Filing Procedures
  • Place Holders and Copy Controls
  • Choosing a Filing System
  • Records Classification


Guides, Folders and File Labeling: How to locate, group and identify your records.


The guides in your filing system perform and incredibly vital function. They help you locate your records quickly.

Through well thought out guides that go beyond a simple alphabetized order, you can greatly increase your filing accuracy and retrieval speed. Including colour, various sub-divisions and hierarchies you can convey locations faster, which will allow you to find the folder you need quickly.


A simpler function, yet no less vital, folders allow you to group related documents and records and allow you to preserve them.


Labels allow you to quickly identify to contents of your folders. Colour coding should be used consistently to further enhance document discovery.


Filing Procedures: The steps you need to follow to maintain your filing system.

A filing system is only useful as long as it is well maintained and the procedures for filing and retrieving records are followed consistently. The moment someone fails to adhere to filing procedures, additional work is created in order to locate lost files or refile them correctly.

While exact filing procedures will vary across organisations there are some useful rules of filing that generally apply to all good filing systems.

  • Always file behind your guides.
  • Carefully plan the number of guides according to the number of folders you will be filing and their frequency of use, their expected growth and their retention periods.
  • Use your folders correctly. This means not overfilling them and also maintaining a record order within each folder.
  • Use heavy duty folders for larger collections of records, where they need to be kept together.
  • Define your filing rules and outline proper procedures to alphabetize your files. The key here is consistency. If you use abbreviations, initials and full words, you need to specify how you alphabetize your files. Do you look at abbreviations first, do you consider the initials or do you file solely on the basis of the full words?
  • Do not overfill your filing cabinets. Space is required for efficient filing and sorting. If you are running out of space you either need to invest in additional filing space or you should look into moving records that are not accessed often to an offsite document storage facility. Securely destroying records that have reached the end of their retention period is also a good way to increase filing space.


Continue to How to Improve Your Filing System – Part 2


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