Managing active files and papers

I’ve been having an email exchange this morning with a woman who is looking to keep her desk organized while she works, which is especially difficult because she has a significant amount of physical paperwork she has to manage. She works in human resources and paperwork is unavoidable in her position. Accountants, billing managers, and anyone who works with hand-signed contracts likely have similar paper management concerns.

The paperwork she processes can be organized into groups, although most of those groups are regularly changing. For example, she’s constantly receiving resumes, but the jobs she is collecting resumes for change as openings for positions do. Having erasable file labels or a label maker will help folder identification change as the file needs change.

Having quick and easy access to those files is also important. I like working with tiered or separated desktop file organizers. My favorite is an expanding metal file organizer that adjusts to meet your size needs:

I also like non-adjustable tiered racks and tiered boxes. If a workspace is next to an empty wall, a wall-mounted pocket rack can do the same thing and not take up desk space:

Individual papers that don’t belong in groups, can always be suspended from clipboards, paperclips suspended from a piece of twine tacked to the wall or a bulletin board, or a restaurant ticket order holder:

As part of this paperwork management, it’s also important to shred, recycle, or file into an archived filing system papers and files as they are no longer being circulated. Be sure to schedule 10 minutes twice a week to review all the active papers and files to make sure you’re keeping inactive items out of your active system.

Do you have a constant flow of active papers and files crossing your desk over the course of a day? What products have you discovered to help you manage your work and keep papers and files from overwhelming your workspace? Share your suggestions in the comments.

8 Comments for “Managing active files and papers”

  1. posted by chacha1 on

    I’m a legal assistant and handle mostly correspondence.

    I have a three-slot file organizer from Target in the corner of my work cubicle. It holds the three varieties of paper filing I end up with.

    I stuck two thumbtacks in my cube wall and use binder clips to hang up “waiting for … ” papers. I get advance copies of things and sometimes wait weeks for the confirmations with enclosures – that’s type 1. Type 2 is notes to myself about files I’m awaiting from another department.

    Other than that I probably can’t contribute much. When I managed an office I had all the HR stuff to juggle and oof, what a headache.

  2. posted by WilliamB on

    This is a good description of one aspect of my job as well. I have four piles: 1) waiting for someone else’s input, waiting for me to do something, “what am I supposed to do with *this*?”, and personal administrivia (such as expenses reports).

    I find that frequent review and daily shredding are key. I shuffle through #1 daily, through #2 & 3 several times a week, and … well … administrivia has been known to sit for a while. I’m also fanatic about tossing these papers when I’m done with them so I don’t accidentally try to do the same work twice.

  3. posted by ButterBlossom on

    My client (in wheelchair, lives in condo 800 sq ft, no extra space, iffy at releasing things) has mounds and mounds of paper above and stuffed w/ paper below on a L shaped table area. After 3 years I was finally allowed to address it, and I will tell you, it kept me up the night before – talk about facing a dragon! So I used my tried and true tool, start at one end, just pick up one thing and deal with it, and then another, and then another. The 1 square foot area we got thru in the first 2 hours had stuff in it from 2003.

    The discouraging thing is I tried to implement a paper managing system early on when I got her desk-part of it cleaned off, but she is resistant. So it should take monthly addressing by me or somebody else. But we have to finish it first.

    I know she does not read this blog. Just venting πŸ™‚

  4. posted by MizLoo on

    I found that having a shelf 6 inches above my desk -mine was a lot like this one πŸ™;sr=1-17)&tag=unclutterer-20 made managing a ton of paper much easier
    What they call a desk topper (;sr=1-1)&tag=unclutterer-20 would also work

  5. posted by K on

    This is inspiring. My desk is a MESS, piles everywhere and always so busy that I’m always moving on to the next thing without making time to sort through and put away what is finished.

    I know it’s making a (bad) impression on my higher-up colleagues and I need to tackle what is here and then start managing it better. Thank you for the inspiration.

  6. posted by Kristin Turberville Haffey on

    I love that ticket holder idea!
    I’ve saved that in my amazon wish list.

    I’m an artist, and have been turning an old computer armoire into a packing station for processing my online sales.

    Something like this would be great to tack up — either on the back panel, or on the inside of the doors.

    Plus, I used to be a line cook. Ahh…practical nostalgia. πŸ˜‰

    Thanks so much!!! πŸ™‚

  7. posted by S on

    I found this website the other day when I was looking for something to use at my desk at work to organize paperwork I think it looks pretty cool and I like the different labels for keeping documents organized.

  8. posted by Scott Roewer on

    Similar to the large paper sorter that you mentioned in the blog post, I use the RATIONELL VARIERA
    AKA Pot lid organizer made of stainless steel from Ikea for $12.99. It’s great price and much smaller in size.

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