Imagine a box. A container rather. It stands in the middle of your office. Whenever someone on your team finishes some task, she throws the notes and related information into this container. Everyone does it. Whenever the box is about to overflow, someone comes and builds up its sides. Hence, files and information do no overspill. And you continue throwing things in.

Imagine you are trying to find something in this container, something particular…

I have recently landed up in a place of no organisation — absolute chaos of administrative and operational information with no structure and no point of reference. Finding any piece of information, regardless of how small or big, casual or essential, resulted in hours spent looking for it on the drive and in the filing cabinets.

Logical filing structure? Nonsense. Naming conventions? Never heard. Language consistency? Who needs it. Not even grammar rules while naming the files.

I felt lamed. A simple booking of a plane ticket took me an hour because I was looking for a valid passport copy.

The moral of the story? The structure is of the essence. Filing guidelines have to be presented to new employees, along with compensation policies and benefits packages. A company dealing with administrative and legal paperwork is to have a filing policy. As well as follow-through processes to ensure the guidelines are implemented and generally used.

Here are my all-time favourites for a simple, intuitive filing structure:

  • Main folders by departments or areas of business, whichever more reasonable;
  • The fewer subfolders, the better;
  • One language only (make it English to ensure you are covered in case expats are working for you);
  • Use numbers as reference (where 1.1 Cooperation agreements belong to 1. Agreement templates);
  • Define spacers – be it underscore, space or dash;
  • Have a separate folder for finance-related information (you will thank yourself for this once your tax return is due);
  • Create a classification list (let users know that delivery note belongs under shipment details and not in finance).

I have had a manager once who thought everyone is grown-up and reasonable. Hence, no guidelines and implementation checks are necessary. What I have learned from her example is that everyone has their reasons and ways of working. In the long term, it is easier for everyone if there are clear and straightforward processes in place along with the general understanding that following through is a must.

Off to bring some structure into my daily work. Chat soon 🙂

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