Most people spend roughly 150 hours per year searching for things. Why?
- Classifying, filing and retrieving information is no small undertaking, as illustrated by the following scenario. You come across a car lease agreement and are immediately faced with a host of questions. Is there an existing file for car leases? If so, where is it? If not, should a new file be labeled "car" or "vehicle" or "leases" or the first letter of the make of the car...? Should all documents for this car be placed in one file or should there be separate files for the lease, insurance, servicing, etc.? What if others need to retrieve the file? How will they search for it?
By the time you have pondered each of these questions, you're not only exhausted but utterly confused and unsure about what to do next. You don't want to take the time to prepare a label (or have your assistant do it), knowing that there are many more important tasks at hand, but you know it must be done. So you do it, albeit grudgingly. With labeled file in hand, you go to the file cabinet and find that there's not enough room for it without shifting the entire contents of the drawer. Having done that, you finally put it in its place. As you close the draw, you ask yourself a few more questions: "When I need this lease in a week or a month or a year, will I look under "l" or "c" or "v" or....? How will my partner search for it?" Tired of the process, you gladly move onto the next task, whatever it may be, as long as it's not filing.
- Now imagine an entirely different and effortless paradigm. You pick up the same documents and type "car" and "lease" into a window on your computer screen. If another file name contains those words, the program will let you know. Since nothing shows up, you know there is no car lease file in your system. You then name the file. Let's say you call it "car lease." Then you move to a keyword section and type any word that you or others might associate with this file such as "vehicle", "car", "lease", "Volkswagen." You finish the typing in seconds and drop the documents into hanging file 28; the number that shows up on your screen.
Two months later, you need the car lease so you do a search for "car" or "Volkswagen" or "vehicle" or "lease" or any combination of these words. Instantly, your computer tells you it's in file number 28. Seconds later, the file is in your hands. Even better, you're out of the office and need to check a provision in the lease. Your assistant does the same search, locates the file immediately, and gives you the information you need.
With a numerical filing system, such as this one, there's no room for interpretation. 1 follows 2 follows 3, period. This, combined with the power of a keyword search function, transforms filing into a foolproof system that works equally well for all manner of thinkers and filers. Time saved in the filing and search process can be devoted to other tasks. Filing aggravation is gone. Productivity is boosted.
- The Tools
- To convert to a numerical system, you will need an ample number of hanging file folders. To ensure that you stay on top of filing, always have more hanging files in your drawer than you anticipate needing.
- The Paper Tiger software program is designed for numerical filing. However, for those who cannot make the paradigm shift immediately, the same system can be used to organize files alphabetically. Truth be told, having experienced the power of the numbers, most eventually convert to the numerical system.
- Another option is to use Microsoft Excel. Although it is less user-friendly, it is a no-cost alternative to purchasing the Paper Tiger software.
A standardized, easy-to-use, filing system may seem pedestrian. Far from it. It's the foundation of efficiency and productivity for businesses and individuals. Assess yours and, if you frequently find yourself caught in filing and retrieval quagmires, it's probably time for a change.