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The Paper Tiger Blog contains great ideas on better ways to stay organized, clear your desk, reduce stress and spend less time managing information.

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Does organizing your filing system seem overwhelming? Are you thinking that converting your files to Paper Tiger filing system is just not worth it? Do you have an office full of stacks and stacks of paper to be filed and lots of file drawers to convert? Maybe the better question is, do you have trouble finding what you need, when you need it? Do you look in several hanging file folders when you need to find a file because you can’t remember the name you filed it under? Every time you have to do this, you’re wasting time. The time it takes to convert your piles and files is justified!

Retrieval is the main goal of a filing system. Paper Tiger is not just a filing system, it’s a ‘finding system’, so as long as you put in a few keywords for each hanging file folder, you will be able to find anything you need…and when you need it without time-wasting searches. A simple search in the database for whatever keyword you’re thinking of that day, will help you find the file quickly. 

There is an initial investment of time to set up your new file system with Paper Tiger, but when you consider that the average person wastes 150 hours per year looking for lost and misplaced papers, even if it took two (8 hour) days to convert … that would be 16 hours vs. 150 hours. Therefore the time spent is well worth it because you will be so much more productive for years to come.

Click here to calculate your cost of being unorganized and estimate your return on investment.

Paper Tiger actually makes filing easier and quicker, because you set up the empty hanging files prior to filing, (a hanging file labeled with a number can be labeled ahead of time), so they are waiting in the file drawer to receive your paper files. When you’re ready to file, you don’t have to search for a hanging folder nor do you have to create a printed label at the time you create a new file.

Make a Plan and Stick To It

Decide how much time you can devote to converting your filing system each day or week, and plan for it. Block the time on your calendar as if it were an appointment. Listed below are some plans of action for converting your filing system to Paper Tiger:

  • Block off a couple of workdays (or long working sessions) and get it over with. Plan ahead and make sure that you have an assistant; anyone who can type to enter data as you relay to them, will make the file conversion go much more quickly. Go ahead and create the Locations in your Paper Tiger database, print out the labels/tabs, and input the numbered tabs into your hanging folders (files you already have set up in your desk drawers and file cabinets, and new hanging folders for new files.) You tell your assistant which words to enter into the database for Item Name, Keywords, and Category, as well as other pertinent information for each file starting with #1 and forward. Then, you can write the Item Number onto the papers, and put the papers into the correlating numbered file.  This will also be a good time to decide file retention for each file and use the Action Date section to remind you to archive or trash after a predetermined amount of time.
    • Converting will be more difficult without an assistant, but it can be done. Also, you don’t have to add keywords for every piece of paper in a file if the file name contains the only word(s) you would ever look up to find it. (ex: invoices)
    • We suggest starting with the papers on your desk. Make a decision for every piece of paper.
    • Throw away what you can do without (if you can toss all the paper in your life and find it later on the Internet or get it from someone else, recycle!)
    • Does the paper require Action? If so, this becomes an action file. Decide what you need to do, either delegate, do it now, or schedule to do it later and file appropriately. Use the handy Action tabs that come with your shipment or printed from Paper Tiger to help you decide how to file Action items! You may also want to set up a daily and/or monthly follow up system to help you with dated items, which you should check daily. Or if it is project related, you might want to index the file into Paper Tiger to give it a temporary home. Click here to read more about Paper Tiger Action Files.
    • If you want to keep for later reference and it doesn’t require action, place in a stack to file (or tray labeled ‘To File’). These files that you will need to keep can be input in a Reference Location or you may decide to create a different Location to group like files together, such as Clients, Leases, Renewals, etc. Click here to read more about Paper Tiger Reference Files.
    • Remember statistically, 80% of our existing files are never referenced again, so as you are going through each file, and you know you haven’t referenced a file for several months (and probably won’t again,) decide if you can toss it or if it needs to be archived.
      • If a file needs to be archived, you can create a location called Archive within Paper Tiger,
      • Print out the labels/tabs for your new Location to insert into the hanging file folder tabs,
      • Type in the file item name and keywords in that Archive location in Paper Tiger,
      • Then pull out the file to be moved to wherever your archived files are located. The hanging file tab numbers will correlate to the item number in Paper Tiger.
    • Decide on the most important sections of your files and convert them immediately.
    • Continue through your desk drawers. If you’ve already input the numbered tabs in your hanging folders, you’re ready to type into Paper Tiger the item name and keywords for each file.
    • Go to your file cabinets next, one drawer at a time. Before you know it, you’ll be done!

Note: If your hanging file folder has several items that you want to include into one Item Name in Paper Tiger, you would simply add keywords for all document items into the Keyword section of the same Item Name. In addition, you may want to separate the physical documents in the hanging file folder with manilla folders. In this case, you might also want to number the manilla folders and include the number that you input on the manilla folder with the coinciding keywords in the Keyword section.

  • If blocking off complete days will not work for you, commit to working on a certain number of files per day. So if you had 150 files to convert and you said you would do 10 a day, in 15 days you would have it done. If you do this, you need to schedule the time in your calendar to do the conversion and then be disciplined about keeping these appointments with yourself. Otherwise your ‘To File’ stack will get out of hand again!
  • Or commit to a couple of hours a week or 1 drawer a day until the rest is done…whatever works for you.

Do a combination of the above in some way that will work best for you. When you’ve completed your filing system conversion to Paper Tiger, and you want to file something, you simply find an empty container (hanging file folder), or an existing container with other paper files on the same subject, put the paper in the folder, type in a few keywords, and you’re done!

You can go from this:

To organized and able to retrieve a file in seconds using Paper Tiger’s search engine:

No more worrying about what to name a file! No more worrying about filing it away because you might not remember what name you filed it under! Paper Tiger will pay for itself many times over, because you will:

  • Save 150 hours or more per year per employee
  • Reduce file storage costs
  • Reduce employee start-up time by 50%
  • Give new hires immediate access to predecessor’s database and information files
  • Increase initial customer service response time regardless of who filed it
  • Reduce legal liability potential by adhering to legal retention guidelines. (Have you created a records retention policy for your office? If not, click here to learn more about Retention Guidelines: How Long Should You Keep Records?)


Maintain Your Organized Filing System

Of course the frequency of filing to maintain your organized system depends on the amount of paper you have flowing through your office. You might decide to index the documents that need filing as they come in immediately instead of waiting to file a stack of ‘To File’ at the end of your day or once a week. Below is an example of how to file once a week after your Paper Tiger filing system has been set up, but if you have a lot of paper, you might consider following these steps in about 10-15 minutes at the end of every day. Whatever you decide is the timing and how long it will take you (daily or weekly), put this in your calendar as a regular reminder….and don’t be tempted to short-change yourself by skipping this calendar appointment. Otherwise, your ‘To File’ stack will get out of hand again!

  1. Pull out your ‘To File’ stack.
  2. Search your Paper Tiger database for an appropriate keyword for each document.
  3. If the file already exists, you will have a file number, such as Reference 12. Write  ‘R-12′ or ‘Ref-12′ in the upper right corner or on the back side of the document in light pencil, and set it aside.
  4. If you need to add keywords to the existing item in Paper Tiger, edit the item and add the keyword(s) for the appropriate file in the database.
  5. Then to the next document, search your database.
  6. If you need to create a new item in Paper Tiger for a document, decide which Location to add it. Go to that Location in the database, click New to add, and Paper Tiger finds the lowest available empty numbered file and assigns this file to that item number. Type in the item name and any keywords relating to this new file, and write the Location and Item Number in the upper right corner or on the back side of the document. Set it aside, and on to the next document to be filed.
  7. When you’ve gone through your ‘To File’ stack, the Paper Tiger database entry task is complete, now you can physically place the documents in the correlating hanging file folder, or you can have an assistant do the physical filing for you, by following the written Location and Item Number on each document.
  8. When you need to retrieve a file, you will search Paper Tiger for the keyword you’re thinking of that day, and you’ll be able to find it in seconds, regardless of who filed it. Also because you took the time previously to write the Location and Item Number on the document, you’ll know where to return the file when you’re done with it! Alternately, if you didn’t write the Location and Item Number on the document, you can search your Paper Tiger database to remind you where the document should be returned.

You’ll be surprised at how quickly converting your filing system can be completed….you just have to get started!

Did you know Paper Tiger is Not Just For Filing Paper!? Basically, anything that you can put a number onto, can be indexed into Paper Tiger. Click here to see even more ways to use Paper Tiger to get organized. Paper Tiger Filing System software enables users to manage paper and other physical items to get organized more effectively.


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When using Paper Tiger, you have the decision as to how you want to differentiate your types of files by creating what we call ‘Locations’ in the database. A Location is a group of like items, and could relate to where you will store your physical items or could relate to the types of physical items that you plan to index (paper files, books, CDs, DVDs, storage boxes, etc.) Your Locations can be named anything you want – however you relate to what you are indexing, i.e., Office files, Home files, Action files, Reference files, House, Basement, Garage, etc. Paper Tiger uses Locations to represent these places where you store the items you want to be able to find later.

You decide what is best for the way you wish to file. Remember, Paper Tiger is not just a filing system, it’s a ‘finding system’, so as long as you put in a few keywords for each hanging file folder, you will be able to find anything you need…and when you need it without time-wasting searches. A simple search in the database for whatever keyword you’re thinking of that day, will help you find the file quickly.

Paper Tiger experts recommend starting with Locations named ‘Action’ and ‘Reference’. Later you can create an ‘Archives’ Location for those files that you can’t part with for legal or tax reasons, but need to be moved from your general file area. These items can be transferred from one Location to another in your Paper Tiger database so you can still find them if you ever need them.

Reference Files are files you need to refer to from time to time, maybe occasionally, maybe once a year, or maybe just hold onto just in case you need to review the file again. For example, your Reference files Location might contain an index of all files in your 5 file cabinets of 4 drawers each, and Item #1 in Paper Tiger starts with the documents in the first hanging file folder in file cabinet 1, and end with Item #500 in with all documents indexed from the last hanging file folder in file cabinet 5. Or you could differentiate your paper files even further with additional Locations such as Clients, Financial, Administrative, Research, etc.

In the Reference Files Location, you might have hanging file folders for the following:

1.   Invoices (within this hanging folder, you can file invoices either by month, chronologically or alphabetically)

2.   Purchases (within this hanging folder, you can file purchases either by month, chronologically or alphabetically)

3.   Expenses (within this hanging folder, you can file expenses either by month, chronologically or alphabetically)

4.   Taxes (within this hanging folder, you can file the documents relating to only the current year’s taxes. Previous year’s taxes should be Archived, along with the invoices, purchases and expenses for those respective years.)

5.   Utilities (within this hanging folder, you can file utility bills either by month, by the type of utility or company name. You might have manilla folders within this hanging folders with the type of utility: -Electricity, -Gas, -etc….then you could just input each new bill in the front of the respective manilla folder so the latest bill would be at the front)

6.   Insurance (within this hanging folder, you might have manilla folders filed alphabetically for Autos, House, and Office) The Item name would be Insurance and keywords might be ‘automobiles, cars, Ford, Honda, State Farm, name, address and phone number of agent(s), policy, home, office, equipment, health, employee, employers, personal, workers compensation, … You could also sub-divide this to Insurance-Auto, Insurance-Home, Insurance-Office into 3 separate hanging folders.

7.   Software

8.   Passport

9.   Sports activities (schedules for tennis, baseball, classes, team members, etc.)

10. Billy (school papers, immunizations, schedules for classes and other activities, awards, etc)

11.  Susie (school papers, immunizations, awards, schedules for classes and other activities, etc)

12. Community Service

13. Personnel/Human Resources (within this hanging folder, you might have manilla folders for each person in your company filed alphabetically) However, if the documents for each employee is greater than what will fit into a manilla folder, you might create a Location separately for Personnel/Human Resources. This would give you the option of creating a separate hanging folder for each employee.

14. Medical records

15. Time sheets and/or pay stubs

As you see these are not in alphabetical order, and of course, they do not need to be since we are indexing our files with Paper Tiger, however you might want to think about what types of files that you want to put together. For example, the files that you will be referencing more frequently in the first 1 or 2 file cabinet drawers convenient to you. The list above would be indexed Reference 1, Reference 2, Reference 3, Reference 4, Reference 5, etc. through Reference 15. The next file that you add to Paper Tiger then would be assigned Reference 16 and would go into Reference 16 hanging file folder.

You might also have an Archives Location for the older files that you need to keep for legal or tax or various other reasons for longer periods of time, but most likely will not need to reference again. See our blog posts for Records Retention Guidelines. You would be able to transfer these files in the database from one Location (i.e.: Reference) to the Archives Location so that you can still keep track of where they are. Then move the physical files to the physical location to coincide with the indexed file item number in your Paper Tiger database. (Whatever you change in your Paper Tiger database, you will want to ensure that you match the change in your physical files.) As information, when you transfer files from one Location to another, this opens the Item Number from the original Location for new documents.

When a hanging file has gotten too overstuffed, you can sub-divide that file chronologically by year.  For example, your hanging file folder Reference 12 for Community Service for 2010 through 2014 could be moved to new hanging file folders with Item Names ‘Community Service-2010′ and  ‘Community Service-2011′, etc. If you move them within your Reference Location, they would be added to the first 2 available open Item numbers in Paper Tiger. Or you could transfer them to your Archives cabinet. Reference 12 would then have room for your new current year community service information.

For the above example, assuming that Reference Item numbers 1-4 all relate to information that you need for your taxes, you would be able to transfer those files to an Archive hanging file folder (or drawer or box depending on the amount of documentation you have and where you will be moving those documents to) named ‘Taxes-2014′ after you have completed your 2014 taxes. Reference Item numbers 1-4 would then be available for your new current year documents relating to the respective Item Names.

How do you manage files that you keep for reference?


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