One common reason for a failed filing system is poor labeling. I’ve seen lots of scraggly folder labels in my years as a professional organizer. Many times the file names are scribbled in pencil directly on the folder. Labels written in pencil and ball point ink fade and smear over time.
There are several great alternatives that will enable you to create an eye-catching filing system that allows you to find your information quickly. Isn’t that the whole point of filing?
Good labeling will make your filing system pop. Easy to read labels are essential to creating a sustainable system too. I use Viewables labeling software from Smead. You can download your free version from Smead.com. For alphabetical files I love the optional large indexing letter that the software places on the label.
Note to Mac users: This software is currently only available for the Windows operating system. However, Smead has released a free online version of Viewables.
Electronic labelers are another option for creating easy to read file folder labels. These tools have come a long way since the days of the Dymo labeler that pressed embossed words onto brightly colored plastic strips.
Today, Dymo and Brother make some pretty savvy hand held and computer supported label makers. I have a hand held Brother PT-touch that I have used for over fifteen years. I typically use this tool when I’m working with clients with Mac computers.
Add some color
You can color code your files if you wish. Assigning specific colors to filing categories is helpful. I use all one color (tan) for my client files. My financial files are all green. Color coding is built into the Smead software.
Another way to add color to your files is to use 3 x 3 sticky notes as folder labels and write the folder name with a fine or extra-fine tip permanent marker. This is a great method for those of you who have nice handwriting. I used the sticky note method prior to using the Viewables system.
I learned a great tip for organizing your files alphabetically from Wendy, an Organize It: Data, Time and Space client. This system is designed for the common third cut file folders. Put all A’s in the left tab position, put all B’s in the center tab position, put all C’s in the right tab position, and then D’s left, E’s center, F’s right and so on through the alphabet.
Since I didn’t have the alphabet memorized unless I sang the ABC song, I had to count on my fingers to determine which tab position I needed. I got tired of doing this so I created this little cheat sheet which I have posted on my tack board.
The tab placement plus indexing letter is all that I find necessary to make finding a client file a snap. Try these techniques to increase your productivity and add some WOW to your filing system.
P.S. Would you prefer a traditional 4″ x 6″ version of the cheat sheet?