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Blog: Can We Have Some Order Here?
Fingertip Files

While organizers love the sight of a clear desk, not all of your paper should be stuck away in a file drawer -- those items that are accessed regularly must be kept handy. But that doesn't mean that you have to suffer with a bunch of disorganized stacks, cluttering up all of your available work surfaces. You can have your cake and eat it too -- easily accessible but still "put away" with a fingertip file!

What Is A Fingertip File?

It doesn't matter whether you're a mom trying to keep track of your kid's classmates, soccer schedule, and PTA activities -- or if you're a corporate executive struggling to stay on top of your company's products, vendors, customers, and staff. You need a good system for organizing commonly-used reference items within arm's reach. That's where the fingertip file comes into play.

A fingertip file is exactly what it sounds like -- a place to store papers that you prefer to keep close by. You know the kinds of documents I'm talking about -- those bits of information that you need to put your hands on at a moment's notice (possibly even several times a day), and don't want to have to dig through a file drawer to find. This includes phone and contact lists, printed schedules and calendars, directories and rosters, cheat sheets and important memos, pricing, product, and vendor lists, and blank forms you use all the time. The goal is to set up a distinct home for these sorts of "quick reference" items, outside of your main file drawer.

However, let's also be very clear about what a fingertip file is NOT -- it's not a dumping ground for homeless papers you don't know what to do with, and it's not meant to store action items or "to-do's." These kinds of documents will clog up your fingertip files and cause you to misplace important information, overlook deadlines, or stop using the file altogether. It's like The Offspring says, ya gotta keep 'em separated!

Fingertip "Options"

The nice thing about a fingertip file is that it can take any form you choose, depending on how you like to handle your paper. If you prefer to store reference sheets out of sight when you don't need them, consider a "flip" style document organizer. Just get a sturdy pressboard classification folder with fasteners at the top of each divider, and attach your pages (one front and one back). You've created a fingertip file that can go anywhere you do! You can also accomplish the same goal with a ring-binder and a set of clear plastic storage sheets -- using divider pages or adhesive tabs to label your documents, and you'll be able to easily access any piece of information in seconds.

What if your fingertip file doesn't contain a collection of loose pages, but a number of larger documents? Simple -- set up an expanding file or set of hanging folders in a file rack, and assign a category to each section. You can organize your paper by the area of your life it relates to (ex: school, church, marketing, billing) -- or the specific document being stored (ex: order forms, phone lists, memos). And, of course, color-coding and labeling each section takes the guesswork out of locating a specific document. If the fingertip items you need to store are bigger than will fit in a file  (like product catalogs, professional journals, magazines, etc.),  you still have plenty of options. You can either store these in magazine holders that sit upright on a bookshelf (one holder for each title) -- or pick up a set of file bar catalog hangers to store your publications spine-up in a file drawer.

If you're one of those people who needs to have things in plain view, consider a bulletin or magnetic board for your most important bits of information. Just be careful to clean out when it gets too crowded -- an overloaded board is no more useful to you than a pile on your desk. A good rule of thumb is once you start to overlap items and create a second layer, it's time to purge. Color-coding your paperwork (ex: price list in green, department directory in yellow, vendor contacts in pink) will also make it easier to locate information quickly.

The trick to creating the perfect fingertip file is paying attention to what documents you use most. For the next few days, every time you touch a reference item, put a small dot or a sticker on the back of the sheet -- those items with a large number of marks should be included in your fingertip file. Then all you have to do is choose the system that best matches your work style and the type of paper you are organizing. Easy as pie!

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posted on: 6/3/2010 11:30:00 AM by Ramona Creel
category: General Organizing Tips

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Can We Have Some Order Here?

by Ramona Creel

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About Ramona:

I have been a Professional Organizer for more than 10 years, I am a NAPO Golden Circle member, and I was the original founder of OnlineOrganizing. I have worked one-on-one with scores of clients and have trained dozens of newbie organizers as they got started in the industry. I provide both hands-on and virtual coaching to help clients improve their organizing skills and simplify their lives. I invite you to visit my website at http://www.RamonaCreel.com, and I challenge you to find one new idea that you can put into practice in your life, to help you become better organized, starting TODAY! I am passionate about coaching folks toward a more balanced, productive, and enjoyable life -- and I firmly believe that if I can do it, so can you!

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