Does your business rely, at least partially, on paper records?
More and more businesses are moving their document storage over to the digital space these days. However, not everything can be converted to digital. Many businesses still have paper records that must be properly stored and organized.
Using three-ring binders to store your hard copy documents is a great way to ensure that they aren’t damaged or misplaced. However, you will need a system to organize these documents in the event that you need to locate one.
Depending on the number of records your business deals with, you have several options for organizational systems.
For records under 5,000, the alphabetic filing system is still the most common method. In this system, all records (including the names of agencies, businesses, geographic locations, individuals, institutions, subjects and topics) are listed in alphabetical order from A to Z.
You can use this system for both client and customer name files as well. If you’re working with subjects, you may need to use a relative index in which you designate a topic name to stand in for a subject.
Here are some other practical tips for alphabetical record keeping:
- If the collection of customers or contacts you have is large, consider utilizing separate folders or dividers inside your binders for each contract.
- Keep things clear by labeling the top of each folder (contact’s last name, first name).
- Use the client’s last name to sort alphabetically. For more than one client with the same last name, utilize their first name as well.
- Keep your organization system tidy by splitting your clients into four sections: A to F; G to L; M to R; and S to Z. You can easily use one binder for each section if they’re too large. This keeps things from getting too bogged down.
With a numeric binder organization system, you will put your files in sequential order. You can do this by assigning numbers to each of your clients/customers, or you can pull a number from your client lists.
Numeric filing can be beneficial because it tends to boost productivity since numbers make it quicker to get your filing done. Unlike an alphabetic system, you can easily use a numeric system for more than 5,000 records.
Terminal Digit Organization
Another form of numerical organization is to use a terminal digit system. Like a traditional numerical system, you’ll organize numbers sequentially. However, in the terminal digit system, you’ll only use the last two digits of the assigned number for each client. This system is commonly used when a business has a high number of records.
This system of recording combines both alphabetic and numeric systems. Alpha-numeric systems are commonly used when there are subject names and numbers in a system.
For this system, you’ll typically start by sorting your files alphabetically and then sort them numerically. As with the alphabetic system, you will need to use a relative index in which you keep track of the number codes you’ve assigned your alphabetic categories to.
Lastly, in a category system, records are broken down into categories and then organized alphabetically. You can either use folders or dividers with index tabs inside your binders to keep things separated.
To make it easier to locate your records, you can also organize your categories by priority. The information you need more frequently can be stored in a separate binder labelled “Priority”.