Creating a Personalized Filing System - Current
To create a workable Personal Filing System, you will identify a general category and then sub categories of related papers. The most common mistake when setting up any filing system is to create a separate file folder for every piece of paper rather than group similar information.
To avoid creating too many file folders, think of your Personalized Filing System as a Chest of Drawers.
The chest of drawers in your bedroom is a place to keep 'Clothing' Each drawer holds one kind of clothing: socks, underwear, t-shirts and shorts. Within each drawer, the contents are related i.e. the sock drawer contains white socks, striped socks, hiking socks, etc. You don't have a separate drawer for each piece of underwear, socks, etc.
Sort by Content
You are finally ready to create your Personalized Filing System 'chest of drawers'. (This is one time that Pile-rs gets to follow their natural inclination.)
Place a box of Current papers on your worktable. As you remove each paper from the box, sort related papers into piles.
STEP AWAY FROM THE PAPER AND REPEAT AFTER ME:
Before I file any paper, folder, brochure, receipt, I will ask myself:
How will I use this information (on a daily, weekly, monthly basis) ?
If you can't readily answer that question, that particular piece of paper may belong in the Archive box or the recycling bin.
Let's categorize the contents of the Current Medical box. The paper may be sorted into the following sub-categories:
Health- may include results of recent physicals, test results, letters from the doctor, suggested exercise routines or diets, immunization records, overall health records.
Medical- may include insurance forms, authorizations from doctors
Prescriptions - may include copies of your Rx, information about the drug, order forms if you order via mail.
Reference - should include information only materials such as your Medical Insurance Plan or Instructions on how to obtain prescriptions by mail. This information is for reference only and is kept in a separate folder.
Label an individual file folder for each sub-category. Put the pile of related papers into the corresponding file folder. Place the folder(s) into the Medical hanging file and hang it in the 'Temporary File Drawer'.
ON YOUR OWN:
Select another box of Current papers. Sort and categorize related papers. Possible categories might include:
Legal (health directive copies, custody agreements)
Medical (health records, prescriptions, health insurance)
Monthly Bills (utilities, telephone agreements, credit card information)
House-related (mortgage/rental agreements, repairs, cost basis, large ticket items)
Financial (checking statements, bank statements, investment quarterlies)
Insurance (auto, house, life, disability)
Personal (family history, addresses/email addresses, interests ie. Yoga, diet, resumes/vitas)
Tax related (receipts of deductible expenses, proof of donations)
Miscellaneous (memorabilia, photos that will be archived later)
Any documents that are difficult to replace or are irreplaceable should be kept in a fireproof box or safety deposit box i.e. original social security cards, current passports, car titles, will.
When you have sorted all the papers, created hanging files and sorted papers into individual files folders, you now need a place to keep these files. Because these are your Current files, you should keep them in your 'office'. Purchase a file cabinet or use your 'temporary file drawers'.
How To Use Your Personalized Filing System
Your Personalized Filing System will change and grow as your life changes and grows. Files will be added; some files removed. To keep filing from becoming piling (AGAIN), it is critical to create a specific day and time to file on a weekly basis.
If you designate a day to open mail, a day to pay bills, another to rectify the checking account and credit card receipts, one day to answer mail or make calls, and a day to fill out forms/applications, the result of these actions is - you guessed it - paper that needs to be filed.
Set aside a block of time on a specific day (or on a daily basis) for filing. File weekly or you may end up where you started: behind a fortress of piles.
Before you file any paper, folder, brochure, receipt, ask yourself:
How will I use this information on a daily, weekly or monthly basis?
If you can't readily answer the question, the piece of paper may belong in an Archive box or the recycling box.
At the end of the year, review the content of each file folder. Place information that needs saving in an archive box. Recycle or shred unnecessary financial documents. Retain information that you will continue to need on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. Re-read my April blog to learn what to keep and for how long.
Take out the trash and recycling. Congratulate yourself.