When we see paperwork on our desk we are reminded that it might be time to clean up and get organised but we don’t seem to notice our electronic files in the same way. That doesn’t mean that they should be neglected! On the contrary, if you have files saved all over the place on your computer, in the cloud or on an external hard drive then it is just like having paperwork all over your desk, it’s messy, unorganised and chaotic!
How many times have you searched for a document on your computer, knowing that you saved it somewhere but can’t seem to remember where? As we are all relying on our computer files, more so than the physical paperwork now, we need to ensure that they are organised and easy to find. If you are running a business then it is essential that you can find things quickly and easily so you are not losing productive time.
What goes in to creating a great electronic filing system? Here are my top 6 tips to help you create an electronic filing system that you can keep organised.
Tip 1 –Location
Decide where you would like to hold all of your files to ensure that they are secure and easily accessible. For most people the best place is cloud based storage. It means that it is saved in real time and can be accessed by others if necessary.
Tip 2 – Structure
It’s time to think about the structure of your filing system. If you already have a paper filing system, then it is best to mirror your physical files and name your folders in the same manner. Keep folder names simple and stay consistent when naming folders. You need to be able to look at a folder and understanding instantly what it means. Try not to have too many sub-folders levels, 3 is probably the most you want to have.
Tip 3 – Naming Files
Once you have your folder names you need to be clear on how you are naming your files. Again, consistency is the key here as it will help you locate the correct file with ease. Simplify the names so that you can easily identify what the document is. How you name your files is an individual preference so there is no right or wrong but here are 2 ways that it can be done. If you want your files to be in date order then name everything with the date first (for example 2016_2_8 Letter to Joe Smith). If you prefer to find your files according to what type of document is then you could name everything with document type first (for example Contract with Smith Services 2016_2_8). Just keep it consistent.
Tip 4 – Stay On Top Of Your Files
File your documents as you go and keep them tidy. If you see a file that doesn’t have a name consistent with your structure, rename it there and then. Don’t wait until you have a few files to move into the right folder, do it as you deal with that file and then instead of taking an hour to move, rename and tidy up your files it will take you 10 minutes and save you valuable time when you need to find that file.
Tip 5 – Back Up
Even if you are using a cloud based system it is important to back up your files on a regular basis for your own security and peace of mind. Using an external hard drive, in combination with the cloud based system, to back up on a regular basis ensures that your documents are safe and you will always have access to them.
Tip 6 – Review Regularly
It is worth reviewing what files you have on a regular basis. I would suggest a review either every 6 months or yearly to decide what files are no longer needed. You may not want to delete these files but it is worth moving them to a folder such as an “Inactive” folder. This will clear up your current files and keep it manageable, while still being able to access older files.
Managing your electronic filing is as important as your physical filing, if not more important, and should be part of your overall document management strategy. It will keep your files in order and your computer happy!
Wouldn’t it be nice to know that you could find what you need, when you need it? If you follow these tips consistently, it will save you productive time and keep you sane!
If you are still struggling to get your electronic filing under control then give PA Excellence a call and we will help you get your e-filing organised.
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