With the amount of books, paperwork and office supplies that can occupy desk space each day, it’s only natural for a person to temporarily push aside everything but the most time-sensitive items. Unfortunately, many of us repeat this process to the point that unwanted piles of personal clutter form — quickly clouding any sense of order that had been established. And the longer the problem goes unaddressed, the more complicated it becomes to resolve. Documents might go missing, events can be missed and deadlines may be overlooked. In any line of work, this can be a career-threatening scenario.

The development of a cohesive filing system can correct this problem — and more importantly — prevent it from happening again in the future. A key mantra to live by is, “a place for everything and everything in its place.” To that end, look around your office and start assigning homes for every type of paperwork that you receive regularly. Even if it means placing unread mail aside for a later date, all pieces should be sorted.

It would be appropriate to put your new system into action on New Year’s Day. Make it your resolution to become a more efficient filer! Visit an office supply store and purchase 50 to 100 file folders to have on hand. Then, block off a full day to sort through your eclectic piles and storage boxes — just throw away the items you don’t really need!
Once you’ve identified the “keepers,” start sorting them by category to eventually place in labeled folders. For documents that you’ll need to travel with, an expandable executive folio might be a good investment. Keep in mind — you may need to create extra space in your file cabinets before embarking on this task; a few of those folders could grow thick!