These days, paperless offices are becoming increasingly common. Businesses of all types and sizes are opting for computers over file cabinets, and for good reason. Storing your critical data digitally is safer and more efficient than physical storage, and accessing it is significantly faster and easier. However, if your files and folders aren’t properly organized on your computer system, you’re going to run into problems. Boost productivity and efficiency and eliminate frustration by following these steps to create an intuitive system for storing and accessing your documents digitally.
Considering Using Organization Software
Before getting started, you may want to look into document management systems for small businesses. There are plenty of software options out there designed specifically to tidy up your files and folders and simplify the organization process. You may still need to put in time and effort to create an ideal system that works for your company’s specific needs, but the software can make it easier for you. There are also organization apps for small businesses that might be beneficial, depending on your company’s requirements.
Create a Hierarchical Structure
The first step to organizing your files and folders is to use a hierarchical structure. You may have heard that term before in relation to employee titles and positions. For example, an employee reports to a supervisor, who reports to a middle manager, who reports to a senior manager, and so on up the chain of command. File and folder organization works in a similar way. You have your lead folder, and when you open that, you have a smaller subcategory. When you open that, you have smaller subcategories, eventually leading to very specific documents that are placed exactly where you would expect to find them.
For example, your desktop could have a folder titled “Documents.” When you open that folder, you could have folders for employee records, customer information, sales transactions, and marketing materials. Next, you open the folder for marketing materials, and you could have folders for social media posts, videos, photos, fliers, and other promotional content. When you open the videos folder, you should see video files clearly labeled and arranged by name, date, or whatever system you prefer.
Employees should keep each folder distinct. A photo should never be placed in the video folder. If there isn’t an appropriate folder for a certain type of document, go up the chain and create one. Filed items should clearly trace back up the hierarchy without any confusion.
Use Standardized Naming Practices
Your hierarchical structure isn’t going to be effective if your documents are assigned random titles. Make sure your employees know exactly how to save a document. For example, if you have a database of clients, you may have them organized by last name, then a period, then the first initial. As long as everyone follows the naming system, sorting through even long databases should be a quick and easy process. If a folder, file, or document is misnamed, it could slip through the cracks, never to be found again.
Provide Templates for Documents and Folders
One of the easiest ways to ensure everyone uses the filing system in a consistent manner is to remove unnecessary wiggle room by using templates for your documents and folders. For example, if someone is entering a new customer into the database, you can have an online form ready to go. The employee simply enters the pertinent information into the labeled sections, drastically eliminating the chances of error. Once you’ve established a file system that works, you can copy and paste empty folders in that same structure to form duplicate versions for your employees to follow. This ensures a well-meaning employee doesn’t accidentally make an error. After all, it only takes one minor change to snowball into a mess.
Create Folders for All Stages of Documents
It’s common to have multiple drafts and works-in-progress stored on your computer. This can cause confusion, especially if the documents are named similarly. To combat that, you can create specific folders for each stage of a project. For instance, an article’s first draft has its own folder, and when the first draft is done, it’s moved into a folder where it waits to be edited. After the piece is edited, it can be moved to a folder for documents pending approval, until it’s finally deposited into the folder for completed articles. This system ensures that the first draft isn’t accidentally published because of an avoidable user error.
Keep Your Employees Informed
When organizing your files and folders, keep everyone on the same page. Unexpected changes to the filing system cause frustration when employees need to access data quickly. It only takes one delay to lose an important sale, so make sure that nobody is left in the dark. After you’ve organized your files and folders, your goal is to keep them that way. Maintaining your organization system is a team effort, and there’s a strong chance that people will make mistakes in the early stages. Be patient, but make sure you correct them so the error doesn’t occur again. Eventually, following the new filing system will become second nature.