Recently, I wrote about 7 ways to eliminate paper from your workspace, but it seems that many people still like to keep some papers. When the concept of going “paperless” started gaining popularity, I, as an organizing and productivity consultant, thought it was important to embrace it. I tried my best to go paperless, but like many of my clients, I found that some paper can actually be more productive.
This leads me to Hemphill’s Principle, which states that if you don’t know you have it or can’t find it, it has no value to you. To make sure you can find the papers you want to keep when you need them, it’s important to consider your situation and style. Productivity is an art form, but there are two tools that can be extremely helpful.
The first tool is a “tickler file”, also known as a “pending file” or “43 folders”. It’s a simple concept – a series of folders, one for each month of the year and one for each day of the month. This was a common tool in the past, and my mother first showed it to me when I was 11 years old. She explained how the bank where she worked used it to make sure all reports were filed on time. I even had the opportunity to work as a spokesperson for a company in Pennsylvania that designed a highly functional version of the 43 folders called SwiftFile™. I loved the product so much that I ended up buying the company.
The second tool is a “File Index”. This is a list of the names of your files along with keywords. There are many ways to create a File Index, and when I first started, I used a legal pad. Today, we work with our clients to find out what software they are already using and incorporate the File Index into that program. If they don’t have any existing software that would work, we share our favorite tool for creating a simple File Index.
A File Index is to a filing system what a “Chart of Accounts” is to an accounting system. The great thing about having a File Index is that your filing system becomes a finding system, saving you space, time, energy, and money.
While going paperless may seem like a good idea, there may be some paper that can actually be more productive. Hemphill’s Principle reminds us that if we don’t know we have it or can’t find it, it has no value to us. To make sure you can find the papers you want to keep when you need them, consider using a tickler file or a File Index. Both tools can greatly improve your productivity and help you save time, energy, and money.
If you’d like to explore whether a Finding SYSTEM would be a happy solution for you, go to www.ProductiveEnvironmentScore.com