If you’ve been to any of my workshops or training sessions, or been following for awhile, you’ve likely heard me talk about Action Files…those are the parts of your paper management system where papers rest until you have scheduled time to actually complete the tasks required. Sometimes people have asked about what the best names for Action Files are. The answer is always – it depends….
Although I generally urge people to label their action files with verbs, Action files work best when they are named by the user….
For instance, for one person – an action file name that works may be: “Bills” – the noun form describing what is inside the folder, for another person, that same category may be best labeled as an action such as: “To Pay”.
Depending on your type of work, you may prefer an Action File that is associated by the day of the month. SomeActionFile systems like the SwiftFile have a folder for each day of the month. These are also known as 1-31’s. 1-31 systems or their cousins, 1-5’s (labeled according to the weeks in a month) are very useful for people who have specific duties to complete on specific days of the month or cyclical weekly deadlines. I’ve instituted successful 1-5 systems with real estate brokers, and news reporters, and 1-31 systems are very helpful for sales people who need to maintain a tickler file on their clients and prospects. Using a folder system designed by date allows you to drop notes, tasks and reminders into the file for any follow up calls or tasks you must complete by a certain date.
What’s Best For You?
I always advise clients to go with their gut and listen to what is normal and natural in the way they name files. Their brain patterns will likely be the most reliable for memory triggers.
Where Should It Be?
Regardless, you should set up an Action File System in the area you consider to be your paper processing center (Formally known as the area you plop to process your incoming mail!) Every time you do it, you should be near to your Action File. Imagine how easy it would be to actually sort your mail into the corresponding NEXT ACTION step the moment it comes into your office?
Some Examples To Consider
Some Action File names to try on and see if they fit for you:
- To Pay
- To Read
- To Return/Errands
- Pending/Waiting On/In Progress
- To Call/Write
- To Follow up
Depending on how you and your brain is wired up, will determine what names are most successful. Listen to your gut, and go with naming that triggers you to act. If you’re finding that you place things into folders and forget about them, you may do best with a different visual orientation for your items. Some people have to “see it” to remember to do it, so they create awesome Action Files but never use them. If you are a visually-oriented person, you may consider an aesthetic approach that triggers you visually. Consider a lucite wall mounted files storage system, or possibly a stadium file that is vertically oriented.
What do you name your Action Files? What naming tricks do you use to organize your paper and keep you on track? What frustrates you about your Action Files? Please add your wisdom by commenting below.