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What I want to do is demystify filing and make this as simple as possible for you. First, when filing papers that aren't financial use a simple alphabetical system. Set up hanging file folders and label each file folder alphabetically. You can usually purchase hanging file folders in groups of 25, one short of the full alphabet. So if you find yourself a folder short, combine the letters X and Y, which brings you to a total of 25 file hanging folders.
Then whenever you have some new document that you need to file, pull out a manila folder, write on the manila folder what you're going to put in there, and then put that piece of paper in the folder. Use a manila folder rather than putting items directly into the hanging file folder. This will make it easier to retrieve items in the future. So let's take an example with this piece of paper. This is a poem that I really enjoy. It's an inspirational quote. I might want to copy this and share it in a meeting, or just refer back to it.
Where do I file this piece of paper? Well, I simply file it under the first letter that comes to mind. So if I think of P for poems, then I pull out a manila folder, write poems on it, stick that in there, and then put in under P for poems.
Now perhaps Q might come to your mind for quotes, so you put it under Q for quotes. What letter you choose doesn't really matter, and that's part of the simplicity of this system. Just write down the first thing that comes to mind, stick the papers in, and then put the manila folder into the hanging file folder. This system works very well for any miscellaneous type of document that you have. But what if we have a client? What if we need a filing system for all of our clients? Or what if we have a specific set of vendors? Well, in that case we'll create a separate set of alphabetical hanging file folders. Then whenever you file a client folder away, you put it in there according to alphabetical order.
For instance, here is a document from the Explorer California Company. So I'll pull out a manila folder I already had created for them in my clients files under E. I'll stick the document in that manila folder, put it back, and I'm done. What about financial documents though? If you work in a larger company, there probably already is a well- established accounting filing system, so I'm not going to go into the more complex filing systems.
But for an individual financial filing, let's say you're just working out of a home office, or you have a solo business with you as the only employee, here is a very simple, practical system for filing all your receipts and documents. Create a set of 12 file folders, one for each month of the year. Then whenever you receive a statement or receipt, any financial document, put it into the month in which it was dated, or you received it, if there wasn't a date. This simple system works well for home- based businesses, service professionals, or just individual finances.
You'll need to keep those records for at least seven years, so create a new set of 12-month folders for each new year. In summary, use alphabetical files, use a manila folder for each type of item that you create and put it into that file folder. Create a separate set of alphabetical files for groups of files such as clients, vendors, and so on. And when filing financial records on a personal level, set up 12 file folders, one for each month of the year.
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