06 July 2017

How to use file folders to organize your documents

I felt stressed. There were assorted documents stashed inside my bag. On my table lie some loose papers I haven't filed: they were sitting on top of notebooks in various stages of disarray. The file folders on the right side of my desk are arranged neatly, but I know at the back end are some documents that I haven't properly filed. And what was my filing system again?

Entropy in Physics is a measure of the state of disorder of a system. According to the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, the state of disorder of an isolated system can only increase. Hence, the mess.

So I decided to overhaul my folder filing system. I sorted the papers into different folders. Each folder has a two or three level classification system. In some folders, I use the institutional categories. The is usually an institution, such as Ateneo (for Ateneo de Manila University) and MO (Manila Observatory). The succeeding keywords are just modifiers, e.g. "MO history CD" or "Ateneo faculty appointment." The folders are then arranged alphabetically. In other papers, I use topical categories, e.g. "Person," "Medical," and "Magazine." For example, "Person: Sugon, Paul," "Medical: HealthDev," and "Magazine: Space Weather Quarterly."

I have thrown about 500 papers of trash, which I cut into thin strips by ripping a handful of papers by hand--about four to five strips per paper. The folders I keep. I can always relabel them using a self-adhesive continuous label paper--just a simple paper sticker of size 24 mm x 90 mm, with 10 pieces per fold. I did not anymore use my electronic labelers, because printing a plastic label is costly, though the labels last long and won't fade with time. But my priorities are organization efficiency and cheap price, not beauty and elegance. So I stick with paper stickers.

It took me 6 hours to reclassify and file my documents. Hopefully, I should now be able to find any document in less than one minute.

My next job is to overhaul my drawers.