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I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. J. K. Rowling
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Finding Files

Here’s a little trick which may help you to find more quickly the files which you use all the time. If you have your files arranged by subject or in alphabetical order, you probably find that you have to think quite hard in order to find them. I used to find that quite difficult. First of all I had to remember what the file was called, then find the right place where it should be. I often found it wasn’t where it ought to be but had moved somehow into the wrong place. It was just as difficult when I was putting the file away - I had to think in order to know what to do with it.

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to find a website address in your browser when the items are ordered so the last used is at the top? It is far the fastest way of finding something that you use regularly. Our minds are pretty good at telling how long ago it was when we last used something.

It’s very easy to do the same thing with files. Personally, rather than use a filing cabinet, I have all my papers filed in lever arch files arranged on a bookshelf. Whenever I use a file I always put it back at the left end of the top shelf. I move the other files along to give it space. So all the files are now arranged in the order I last used them. Result: I can lay my hands instantly on every file that I use frequently. Another advantage is that I don’t have to think about where to put a file when I have finished with it. It always goes in the same spot - the left end of the top shelf.

I found the system worked so well for files that I now use it for books too. No longer do I lose books that I am reading. I know exactly where to put them so that I can find them again. I can also see exactly when I last looked at any particular book. It’s a very simple system, but it works!

Reader Comments (2)

I live in the US and can't seem to find "lever arch files." This my be a bit of a dense question, but are 3-ring binders basically the same thing? I'd like to try out your method, but only with easily-obtainable items at my office supply store.

Also, does this method work just as well when more than one person is using the files, or is it only for your personal files?

Thank you so much for Autofocus!

March 15, 2009 at 12:55 | Unregistered Commenterjim (atlanta)
I use a mix of that. After a month or two I forget when I looked at something and the pile is too large to quickly look through. At that point it becomes easier to remember what I called it. Some types of papers I file sooner than others. Some have intermediate stages. All the utility statements go in a pile (after I've paid them) until the end of the year. Then I sort them by company and put in proper date order, then staple them together.
September 13, 2010 at 3:49 | Unregistered CommenterCricket

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