Sorting, filing, archiving ... a user manuel!

The archiving method depends on the activity, but there are some basic rules that can be used to lay the foundation for an effective procedure. Sorting, filing, archiving ... a user manuel!
Although the basic principles of archiving are often universal, there are many ways to store paper or virtual documents. Whatever method is chosen, to be effective, an archiving plan should meet the following objectives: quickly retrievable documents, easy understandable methodology and easy adaptability.

In all cases the main archiving methods are always the same: chronological, alphabetical and thematic archiving, all subject to different time limits. Obviously, all these methods can be combined. First of all, you should always ask yourself the following questions: do I have to keep this document? And if so, for how long? For how long must it remain easily accessible before it is archived?

Chronological, alphabetical, thematic?

A document always follows the same path. As soon as it arrives, it must be classified in order of urgency, processed, then reclassified for future use before being archived. Finally, it is destroyed when it has expired. The aim is therefore to establish a sorting order at the beginning of the process through a combination of labelling and titling (thematic classification), dating (chronology) and urgency (use of different coloured folders in according to importance). Following this procedure, a processed document can be archived for consultation in the most efficient way: its path is perfectly known.

COMBINE: Use coloured folders matching the reference of the document. For exemple: a red folder for what needs to be signed urgently, a green one for what can wait a week, a black one for what needs to be filed immediately. Alternatively, coloured round stickers can be used: a red sticker to indicate that a document is to be processed, a black one to indicate that the document has been processed.

Anticipating the future: an ever-evolving plan

Your filing system should not only be efficient in the short term, but also scalable and allow for the integration of new documents. Therefore, you should allocate enough space and folders to each category according to its volume and anticipate the space that a category is likely to occupy in the medium and long term. The filing plan should therefore be adapted to the available space and its layout. It is particularly recommended to keep within easy reach current files or files that you will need frequently.
Do not hesitate to divide or subdivide files that are too large and make research difficult.

The art of ... throwing away

One of the main causes of incorrect filing is the accumulation of unnecessary documents. As a precaution, people often tend to keep documents rather than throw them away. Therefore, it is necessary to consider which documents should be kept and for how long. To this end, it is advisable to indicate the period of validity of a document when it is received. For example, a supplier's catalogue is valid for a maximum of one year and goes into the "annual" archive box before being destroyed, whereas an accounting document must remain available for at least the current financial year before being permanently archived.

Both on paper and on computer

As documents are becoming increasingly electronic, it is recommended that the filing system for virtual documents should initially be the same as for real ones: time-stamping, thematic (folder title) etc. However, IT introduces additional functionality as files can be indexed almost automatically.