Trust your intuition when organizing your papers. By Joshua Zerkel
One of the most frequent questions I get from clients who are organizing their offices is what to call their new filing categories. The truth is, there is no one right way to create a category structure for a filing system. Filing, whether on the computer or on paper, is really about retrieval. You put things away into folders because you want to find that information later. It is really important, therefore, that the places we put those things are easily remembered.
Typically people over-think their category names, settling on labels they think should be right based on what someone else told them or what they read in a book—rather than naming a category something that might be more intuitively correct. So when it’s time to look for something they filed, they have to look several levels deep before they can find what they’re looking for.
There are plenty of guides out there that offer suggestions for basic filing systems, but it is important to take these as guidelines and not use them verbatim. You should customize your filing system to meet your needs—especially the category names. You can start with a pre-defined list of file categories, but you should comb through that list and really customize each category name so that they resonate with you. Later, when you’re looking for something, those are the names you are going to look for.
Choose a category name that speaks to you. Four different businesses might file profit-and-loss statements four different ways: one might call them “financials”; another might call them “numbers”; a third might call them “reports”; and a fourth might call them “money.” None of these are wrong. As long as you know where to find what you need, it’s correct! Trust your intuition: whatever pops into your head first—that is the category name that you should choose. Because when you are going to look for those things later, that is probably the first thing that will pop into your mind then, too.
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