April 22, 2015 ~ Elen Delap
Small business to do’s fill each day and organizing your electronic files is often on the back burner. It’s tempting to save your work on your computer desk top for easy access. You may have 5000 emails in your inbox, many with documents and spreadsheets attached. It’s only a problem when it is time to retrieve a document and you spend hours trying to find it. Follow these basic, simple SMB filing tips for organizing your electronic files and find anything in under 5 minutes.
Start with a general file system.
Create your folders first. Name these with general topics. Every business is slightly different, but most small business digital files include financials, sales, marketing, legal, products and human resources. Name your folders what you specifically would call these items. For instance, financial could be money, fiscal or accounting.
Move your files into these general categories first, then create subcategories as needed. You can also create chronological categories as needed within these larger categories as well. Subfolders help you locate documents more quickly. By thinking through your folders then subfolders your system will be logical, sequential and accessible.
Standard naming conventions
When files are named with a standard, it’s quick and easy to find what you need and file regularly. You can create standard naming conventions to name your files as you import or create these. Decide on the most important identifier first, such as a date, report name, vendor name, client name, or agreement. Using a date in the file name helps as an additional identifier. Then it’s a matter of being consistent as you continue naming files.
Big picture view of all your files
It’s best to have all your files created with the same folder and file names. Email and paper files should parallel your digital files. It’s seamless to know where to find information. In email, detach your documents and save these in your device. Scan in your paper filesand create digital copies and go paperless. Backup your files in Dropbox, Google Drive or SkyDrive to access these from any device you use. Always have a back up for your computer as well with an external hard drive or automated option.
Get started in small chunks. Don’t try to get all your files organized at once. You can work for 15 – 30 minutes slots at a time and make steady progress. Start with your current projects and then work back to older files. It’s worth the time investment to easily access documents, spreadsheets and more.