Where to Store Paper Files

The final step in our Paper File Management series is how to decide where to store your files. Storage depends on a number of considerations: frequency of access, compliance requirements, the size of the files, available storage, and the number of people who must access the files.

Action: Items that require an action, such as bills to pay, phone call notes, research paperwork, or information on making a purchase need to go in your Active Files. Active Files are also known as Tickler Files, because they ‘tickle’ your brain to remember that there is an action associated with them. Choose your most convenient location for your Active Files since you will be accessing them on a regular basis.

Location Options: Action Files can be stored in a number of places: a rolling cart next to your desk, in nearby cubbies or on your desktop. Make sure all labels are visible as these files will be the backbone of your daily tasks.

Reference files are files that might need to be accessed regularly. Frequency of access is determined by type of industry and whether or not paper files are still the accepted standard. When deciding where to store Reference Files, ask yourself:

  • Do you need these files to be within reach of a phone?
  • How many people in your office must access them?
  • How often do you need to file?
  • Do you and your colleagues prefer to bend or reach?
  • Can these files be stored in a way that reduces interruption of the people located near them?
  • Is there a quiet, out-of-the-way place with enough space for these files?
  • What makes the most sense, given space and personnel constraints?

Archive files are files that need to be kept for compliance reasons. These include tax information, medical records, and any other file that may be needed as proof of a transaction. Where you store them depends largely on the available space. Ask yourself:

  • Does your industry have records retention requirements?
  • If so, what are they?
  • Must the archive files be stored on-site, or can they be stored elsewhere?
  • If you store them off-site, how much lead time will you have to retrieve them?

Having a well-designed system to manage your paper files can help increase efficiency and reduce time searching for information. In the long run, an effective records management plan will be worth the time needed to establish it.

Need help setting up your file system? Contact Lisa Mark, C.P.O. for more information.

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