The days of paper filing may be on their way out, but the organization of your business documents has never been more important.
In today’s technological world, the storage of documents has gone digital (for the most part). This means that with so much space on-hand, document disorganization can happen before you even know it.
Here’s how to establish and maintain an organized, streamlined digital filing system.
Why is an Organized Digital Filing System So Important?
The storage of digital documents takes place on desktops, laptops, mobile devices, external hard drives, and the cloud, of course.
These documents include invoices, quotes, legal documentation, contracts, and even screenshots — the list goes on. Check out https://setapp.com/how-to/snipping-tool-for-mac for simple screenshot creation.
With so many different places to store your documents, how do you keep track of it all in today’s digital age?
To further complicate the issue, documents are continually amended and shared between employees and clients. Which version is which, and how do you keep track of what’s relevant and what’s not?
Sounds overwhelming, doesn’t it?
But, it’s important to keep business files in order for client requests, client reference, your own business reference, and the filing of taxes.
In a shared business environment, the organization of digital documents is critical. This way, anyone can locate an important document if an employee who created said document is absent.
7 Tips to Help You Manage a Digital Filing System
Ultimately, the goal of electronic file storage is to ensure that you can find what you’re looking for, even if it’s a few years down-the-line. Here’s how to set up a working storage system:
1. Designate One Storage Place for All Documents
To keep things as simple and accessible as possible, keep all your business documents under one single ”master” folder. Then, all your documents can be stored in sub-folders within this master folder. For example, you’d use the My Documents folder on Windows as a designated storage place.
In a file-sharing environment, it’s wise to do the same thing. Create a master folder called ”Shared Documents”, and then create sub-folders within it. At the end of the day, this makes it easier to locate documents, run important data backups, and archive old files.
2. Create Sub-Folders in a Logical Order
Think about sub-folders within your master folder as drawers within a filing cabinet. Don’t overcomplicate document storage — keep your filing naming simple and plain. Try not to use too many abbreviations or acronyms. This is so that everyone can understand what each folder actually contains and isn’t guessing what random abbreviations mean!
3. Minimize Your Number of Orphan Files
Orphan files refer to random folders floating around your master folder that haven’t been filed or categorized. A good way to keep orphan folders to a minimum is by nesting folders within each other. File every document within a relevant folder, rather than having lists of uncategorized files that just create clutter and confusion.
For example, you may have a sub-folder named ”invoices”. Nest your invoices per year, then per month, by creating sub-folders for each category. Try to avoid creating deeply-layered folder structures though — this can also get confusing!
4. Stick to Common File Naming Conventions
This goes without saying, but try not to include too many foreign or uncommon characters when it comes to naming your documents. Instead, stick to underscores which make file names easy to read and understand i.e. John_Smith_Quote_February.
The following characters are a major no-no when it comes to file naming conventions: / ? < > : * | ” ^.
Use descriptive file names that make documents easy to identify. But don’t make them too long, either. Most file/path names have length limitations anyway. When it comes to abbreviations, stick to common ones that most people are familiar with.
5. Be Specific and Use Dates Where Possible
When you’re a few sub-folders deep, the last thing you need is a file name that is just not logical or specific enough. Make sure you add all relevant detail to folder and file names, without going overboard. Adding in dates is always helpful, too. This way you can tell how relevant a document is.
Think of it this way: the overall goal is to know what the file is about, without having to open it. Use keywords that hint to the contents of the file, where necessary. I.e. if the file is an overdue notice or invoice – use these keywords in the name.
The same goes for sharing or sending files to colleagues or clients. Try to be more specific in the file name since the folder information will not be there for reference.
7. File as You Go and Cull Documents Regularly
It’s critical to create folders and name files correctly as soon as you create them. This way, you create a habit out of it, which leads to a well-organized filing system in the long-run. The same goes for filing documents in the right place. Once you’ve saved and named a file, make a habit of saving it in the relevant folder. This makes life easier for not only you but your entire business.
Older documents may be easy to spot or obvious to you, but this is not always the case for all your colleagues. A good way to keep your folders unclutters is my clearing them on-the-regular.
Remember that you shouldn’t just delete business-related filed unless you’re 100% certain they will not be needed again. Instead, create a separate folder within your master folder and label it ”inactive” for older, less commonly-used files.
Looking For Living, Lifestyle, Travel, or Business Tips?
We hope this blog on establishing an organized digital filing system has been helpful. For more inspiring lifestyle, travel, and business advice, explore the rest of this blog for more.
Learn how to better manage your stress levels, how to find the perfect rental to suit your needs, home buying advice, and more.