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How to Create a Filing System

An efficient filing system enables multiple users to access information quickly. With records in multiple electronic and paper formats, it’s important to simplify and avoid redundancy.

Suggested Ways to Organize

The most common ways to arrange files include:

  • Alphabetical – by name or subject
  • Chronological
  • Geographical
  • Numerical

These filing systems may be used in combination as well. For example, first alphabetically by subject and then chronologically.

Creating an Effective System

  1. Set up consistent categories which easily accommodate documents created and stored in various paper and electronic formats.
  2. Conduct a records inventory — contact Records Management if you need guidance.
  3. Establish a centralized filing system. Use shared network drives and naming conventions for electronic records, and central file cabinets for paper with easy access for all users. This helps avoid duplication.
  4. Cull files annually. Your file space (cabinets, drawers, shared network drives) should contain only active files needed to complete the day-to-day business of your department.

Inactive Records

During this process you should determine what to do with inactive records. Documents that are not records (notes, drafts, extra copies) should be destroyed.

Records that must be retained for a period of time should be stored in a secure location. Proper labeling of boxes is important: Indicate the type of records inside as well as the date on which they can be destroyed.

Make sure that any records that contain confidential, personal, or sensitive information are destroyed in a secure manner. This may mean shredding paper documents and data wiping electronic files.