Q: “Denise, I read your article last week on filing systems. This all sounds good, but over the last 15 years I have been in business, I have accumulated a lot of files. A LOT!!! Frankly my filing system isn’t so much a system as an unmitigated disaster. I don’t even know where I would begin to redo it. Maybe I should just take a match and torch the whole thing and enjoy the fiery chaos that follows! But seriously, what do you suggest?”
A: Aside from getting some marshmallows to toast over your flaming computer, it is important to know that any bad filing system can be fixed, but it is going to take some time and patience. I actually asked my CEO, Shauna, how she would tackle this problem since she always seems to be able to find things, even if she hasn’t worked on them in seven years. She indicated your best plan would be to create the folder structure you want and then begin filing your old files in the correct corresponding folder.
For example, you might start with clients. Create all your client files and then starting with one client at a time, take the materials from the bad filing system and file them correctly in the new one. Find all documents that pertain to that client and put them in the folder. You might have a partial folder started in the bad files in which case, move the contents to the new folder and delete the old bad folder. The goal is to get as many files and folders out of your bad filing system as possible and then deal with the miscellaneous files at the end.
If your client files are literally all over the place for a particular client, what you could do is use the Windows Explorer search function and search for that client’s last name. This works better if the last name is unusual or you know you only have one client with that name.
So put down the matches and start working through those old files. The beauty is if you spent 15 minutes a day on this, you would be shocked as to how fast your new, improved filing system could be working for you.