The old process used binders with tabs for the various topics that we always encounter - Site, Codes, Budget, etc. It was about as easy to file things as using manila folders, and it was much easier to retrieve things.
The new system mimics the organization of the old system, but we use nested folders on the server to file the content digitally. It is easier to file and much easier to retrieve information.
Here is how it works.
- You have a letter tray for each project. I label them with Post-Its for ease in re-labeling.
- Each letter tray has one or more manilla folders to temporarily hold paper that is in-process. The folders are for portability.
- When a document arrives or is created in paper form, first consider whether the issue that it addresses is resolved or not resolved.
- If not resolved, it goes into the letter tray.
- If resolved, it gets scanned and the scan is named descriptively (say BUDGET 090715) and moved to the appropriate sub-folder of the Project Folder on the server.
- For not-resolved issues, the paper acts as a checklist, and it is usually marked up as it is worked upon.
- When resolved, either pitch the paper or scan and then file the scan as above. And then pitch the paper.
Many times you won't have paper at all. For example, draft a proposal; when complete, turn it into a PDF and email it to the client. File the electronic original. I often print a draft to proof/markup, but I don't save a paper copy.
There is no real point in trying to avoid all paper; just don't file the paper.
Besides taking less time to file and retrieve, the electronic files don't take up floor space, and don't take longer and longer to find as time goes by.