Get Ahead of the Chaos! Filing and organizing tips.

It happens to everyone – you get busy and papers pile up.  You can’t find that important email in your inbox filled with hundreds of emails.  You constantly use the find function to locate files on your computer.

Most importantly…. set up a filing system – paper, email and on your computer BEFORE you need it.

Life is busy, and if you have to stop and think where something should be filed, you are less likely to file it properly.  If you have folders already set up – it’s so much easier to file it away.

Think in categories and sub-categories. 

Not only will this help you to organize your files better, it helps organize your thoughts and actions too.  For example, start with broad categories such as finding customers/marketing, creating or preparing what you sell, wrap up – analysis, accounting/bookkeeping, organic certification.  Sub-categories of marketing might be… e-newsletter article notes, e-newsletter open reports, price signs, website updates, list of passwords and logins, etc.

Approach your paper file folders first.

Look at your current files.  Create new files for the coming year for folders that are always needed. For example, expenses, farmer market paperwork, conferences, industry statistics, budgets, blog topic ideas, etc.

Create multiple folders for the new year to replace the ones that have become thick during the current year.  For example, instead of having a folder for all of your farmers markets – create a folder for each market you are involved in.  Maybe you separate the topic by category.  For example – farmers markets contracts, farmers markets sales records, etc.

That stack that has built up on your desk, kitchen table or corner of your floor… tackle it.

Find a large space where you can sort all of these papers into piles.

For important papers create folders for each of these categories for the new year.  This will help this pile from building up again.

Take a look at the papers from the pile.  Could you avoid having this paperwork completely?  Perhaps some items could be kept electronically or you vow to bring home fewer brochures or free publications from that next industry show?

At the end of this process you should have a fresh set of file folders for the coming year.  This way when you have something to file it’s quick and easy to file it quickly.  When important paperwork is in it’s place it’s easier to find.  When you repeat certain projects in the future past records will be easy to reference.

An alternative to file folders.

Another option is to use binders with tabs.  The benefit is that all paperwork stays in order and doesn’t fall out.  The downfalls are those extra seconds it takes to hole punch the paperwork and that they can become bulky if you need to carry them.

Don’t Forget Email and Your Computer

Although you can use search functions to look for files on your computer or that important email – it’s best to be organized in the first place.  This will keep your inbox cleaner because you will be able to move important emails to folders for future reference.

Use the same process as above to assess your current files and to create folders for the coming year in advance.

An Example

Becky teaches local food cooking classes.  Some categories to consider are listed below.  Depending on how many classes she offers and the number of students she may want to create one folder for the categories, or create folders for each sub-category.

Planning – budget, to do list, timeline


Marketing – Weekly calendar of activities, Online promotion, flyers

Logistics – location, insurance, packing checklist, contact numbers list, shopping list

Course – Presentation, handouts, recipes


Post Event – thank yous, surveys, analysis

It won’t be perfect but it’s a step in the right direction.

There’s no doubt you may need to add folders as you go through the year.  You can’t predict everything.  But having at least some folders set up will get you started and each your folders and filing will improve.

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