TO FILE OR NOT TO FILE : THAT'S THE QUESTION


Knowing when a document’s “use by” date is important – you need to check your organisation’s records management policy on discarding and keeping documents. Some organisations keep records for up to 3 years before they are put to a storage facility. Some of require longer, or maybe shorter. So it is good practice not to assume that a document is to be put away even if it gathers dust!

Here are some useful strategies you can implement should you decide to file papers: A. OVERFILLED FOLDERS/FILING CABINETS - this may be a signal that it is time to check what we can potentially discard, devote an hour each day to go through each folder

B. WORK ON DUPLICATES – decide what to do with duplicate papers, do you need to keep that much copies of the same document? If you have multiple copies, you may opt to keep one or 2 and then discard the rest; also ask yourself the question as to why you need to keep multiple copies

C. CONVERTING IT TO ELECTRONIC VERSIONS – some of the files are better off kept as an electronic copy or what is termed as “soft copy”. When you scan the document as a PDF or JPEG for example, ensure that your electronic filing system mirrors your paper-based filing system, as consistency will make your search work easier

D. KEEP A FILE TREE – a file tree is useful in locating soft or hard copies of documents, this is simply an explanation of where files are kept and how the filing system is organised, it shows categorisation of documents and any sub-folders within a certain category

E. REVIEW AND AUDIT – it is suggested that a yearly audit and review of whether a document is still actively used is undertaken. Plan on a good time to do this, for example on not-so-busy times of the year.

F. DISCARDING PAPER – there are several options you can decide on once you have confirmed that paper is no longer required. You can shred or throw those away in a secured bin, especially when it contains sensitive information. But for papers that do not contain confidential information, you may choose to recycle them as scratch paper, or for printing draft copies of documents. Ensure that you have an allocated recycling tray and inform everyone in the team not to print double sided when using recycled paper – or allocate a printer tray only for recycled paper. Finally, you can simply collect all unusable paper to sell to junk shops for extra money, or to donate to charitable groups or schools that may be able to use that for their projects.

In conclusion, it is good practice to think about what types of documents dominate your files and whether your filing system needs to be reviewed to make it more efficient for your office needs.