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Time management - Filing notes

Filing notes

What should you file?

Archive material

When these are off-site they will be less accessible. There will be many types of documents that end up here. They are a central reference for many people. They tend to be documents that are required for legal and procedural reasons and are kept for a fixed period of time. These documents are usually originals (with signatures etc) and as such need more formal systems for their archiving and accessibility.
Security and safety measures should be put in place as their loss could have severe affects on the company.

Reference items

These will be local to your area of work and easily accessible. Unless you consult a particular reference often it should not clutter your desktop.
These support aspects of your daily tasks.

If reference files start to get too numerous for one particular topic you may need to consider filing as a separate topic.
More permanent reference material in libraries or archives could be accessed electronically. However, to do this requires a time and expense that many people do not have.

Delayed tasks

These items have come from 2 sources, see ‘information flow sheet’.

Tasks requiring ‘no action’ that were not disposed of or delegated.
Tasks that required ‘action’ but could not be done quickly or delegated.

Delegated tasks

You will need a system that will allow you to access supporting information whilst keeping abreast of delegated tasks.
You will have the ‘accountability’ if not the ‘responsibility’ for completing them.


All tasks requiring multiple steps to complete.

What system should you use?

What ever system you use it should meet particular criteria.

  • If you have an assistant discuss the system with them and agree it.
  • Simplify it as much as possible.
  • Files should be readily available when needed.

Two methods are discussed below.

The ‘A’ to ‘Z’ system:

This is by far the simplest method.
In its basic form there would be no need to subdivide the files into the sections referred to above, instead just file everything into an ‘A’ to ‘Z’ format.
This is good if you can remember how you filed particular items.
For example, if you are filing budget notes would these be under:
‘Budget’, ‘Costs’, ‘Finance’, ‘Project X’ etc.

It is often easier to file certain topics under a common heading, for example, under Project A.

Project A: Budget, summary.
Project A: Budget, resource.
Project A: Schedule

Or for personal items.

Holidays: Hotels visited.
Holidays: Planned.
Holidays: Packing list etc

Whilst this system would contain everything it would not easily distinguish between when we had to do each item.
However, if we incorporated this system along with the key filing areas of:

  • Reference.
  • Delegate tasks.
  • Delayed tasks.
  • Projects.

It should work OK.
So, within these files you could adopt and ‘A’ to ‘Z’ system (with or without the additional breakdown into Project A etc) making it easy to obtain the files.

Archives are a special area where more robust electronic systems are often better. They are not referenced so frequently.

We can improve our recognition of the filing system by perhaps associating colours with the above, for example:

Delayed tasks (future reference) RED
Delayed tasks (action required) GREEN
Delegate tasks BLUE
Projects YELLOW

All individual folders that end up here can be colour coded as well for easy recognition.

The ‘Day files’ system:

See ‘Day files’.
One problem with the ‘A’ to ‘Z’ format is that it contains no time factor (without modifying it as above). For the 3 filing groups:

  • Delegate tasks.
  • Delayed tasks.
  • Projects.

We need to monitor their progress.
The use of ‘day files’ for these groups is a good way to keep on top.

For each of these groups have 31 files for each day of the month. You will then need just one other file which you could label ‘next’.
The ‘next’ file will contain everything beyond the next month.

When you reach the 31st (or the 30th day) you can review the contents of the ‘next’ folder and if anything has to be completed within the coming month you would move the appropriate information to the required ‘day file’.

Similarly, if you tackle tasks on the 17th and need to complete certain additional aspects by the 2nd of the next month just put it in the 2nd day file and it will come round again naturally.

Reference files (that require no time aspect) can easily use the ‘A’ to ‘Z’ format.



Don’t be afraid to label each document and piece of paper for filing. Put them in separate folders which then sit in the ‘A’ to ‘Z’ format or in the ‘day files’.
You may like to type your labels affording a more professional look.

Empty regularly

Don’t just add file after file until your filing cabinet is bulging at the seams. If you get to this point you are missing the point of Time Management and getting yourself organised.
If it’s full you wont want to add more files and the system will come crashing down.

Get rid of useless material on a regular basis. Try to keep the filing cabinet no more than 80% full.

You are only as good as your filing system. If you can not retrieve the correct information when you want it your efficiency will drop rapidly.

Polychronic v monochronic

The well ordered nature of filing systems lend them selves more readily to those people who fall into the character trait of monochronic, see detail elsewhere, see ‘monochronic time’.
They embrace well ordered systems. However, if you are polychronic you may find these systems a potential hindrance. If you want to file information on a personal hobby of collecting pottery where would you put it? Under ‘P’ for pottery, ‘I’ for information, ‘M’ for Minton … it can become confusing.

The polychronic person may be a lot more comfortable with visual and spatial clues when filing items in particular areas for easier retrieval. The use of colour and texture may be important.

Non - PRINCE2 information