Recently I had a discussion with my son about setting up our home office so that he too can share it. We were discussing how to organise it when we started talking about his locker at school and how he keeps his notes and homework in a folder to bring home. The discussion then moved on to how he should store this information at home where I offered suggestions. He turned around to me and said I will be one of the few students who has ‘files and not piles’. This really pleased me in that I realised he has been listening to my various discussions with other students and taking this in without my even knowing.
How is your own file organisation or that of those in your family particularly any students in your home? Do you or they place it in piles around the place or do you actually file it in folders in a cabinet or on the desk? This can relate to both paper or electronic information. How are your electronic files are they inconsistently named or are they in easy to navigate folders and sub folders? Maybe you are better at dealing with paper or electronic information or neither?
File organisation is a life skill that is best learnt as early as possible. Our children as students need to learn this but don’t worry if you yourself haven’t as yet as it can be learnt. Information is everywhere and needs to be filed somewhere even if it is the bin! This applies in our homes, on our desks, kitchen benches or tables, home or work offices and even on the electronic devices we all use.
Generally you are either a filer or a piler. Piler’s can function well and still be organised and productive. If you are a true piler then usually you know exactly where something is within the piles. For most people that I usually work with, families, students, small businesses the piles however are not following that of a true piler and just end up that way. Another reason things end up in piles is that people don’t want to make decisions about what to do with it and it is easier just to add to the pile. The problem with this approach is that they often become overwhelmed and stressed as they can never find things in a hurry and they waste time and effort by shuffling paper around and around.
What I usually do when working with clients it to tailor a filing system that will work and function for them – what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another. The key to conquering your paper clutter once and for all is to use a system that fits your natural way of doing things. In most cases it starts with the paper and then moves to the electronic aspect as well.
A few key tips to assist are:
- determining what information you need to keep and what doesn’t – what is important to you and what isn’t (this will be different for everyone).
- deciding how to treat the information when it first comes in – have one place where it initially goes until you get a chance to go through it. Without one spot you will create more spots and piles.
- reducing the amount of paper – can you reduce the incoming flood of paper by opting for paperless billing, unsubscribe from magazines or newsletters (this also includes emails).
- not leaving information in a pile that keeps getting added to – taking the time to deal with the information on a regular basis – have an established routine.
- taking action – when information begins to pile up past your comfort zone then make sure you take action rather than let it take over and overwhelm you.
- having a filing system – it does not need to be complex, the most important thing is to be consistent in what system you decide to use and file in the same way. Ensure it is labeled by category too.