A desktop action file positions current files (and control over paper) at your fingertips.
What Belongs in an Action File?
All the papers triggering you to do something today, in the next few weeks, or regularly should live in an Action File. (e.g., make a phone call, enter information into your address book, visit a website, read, research, write an email, review a statement for accuracy, file in long-term filing, enter transactions into the computer.)
What Doesn’t Belong in an Action File?
All the papers you’re keeping for reference or legal reasons, but do not require action on a near-term or regular basis should be archived or stored in a long-term filing system. (e.g., completed project files, tax-related papers, manuals, insurance policies, best practice articles, performance reviews, maintenance records, birth certificate.)
Steps to Create a Categorical Action File
1. Schedule a few hours to create an Action File.
2. Gather all your loose papers, a scratch pad, and a pen.
3. Take the first piece of paper and ask yourself “What is the next action I need to take to get this piece of paper out of my life?”. Write down the answer on the scrap paper and begin a pile of papers labeled with this category heading. Move onto the next paper and repeat. (Most people end up with categories such as recycle, shred, read, write, call, data enter, pay, pending, file, and then special categories to fit their unique situation.)
4. Assess your categories, and condense where possible. Tally the number of categories and evaluate if you can create a file system with your current office supplies, or if you’ll need to purchase new ones.
5. Shop for new materials if necessary. (Some of our favorites are this desktop file box and these hanging and file folders.)
6. Install your office products and place the piles of papers into their properly labeled new homes.
7. Add reminders to your calendar. Either specifically call out special tasks with deadlines, or add reminders to go through certain file folders on specified dates to ensure deadlines are not missed.
8. Maintain the system by keeping up with your filing and reminder system, and by removing files you haven’t used in a month or more.
9. Bask in the clear space and control you just created.