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This week I am sharing another guest post; this time from Virtual Assistant extraordinaire Kirsty Wilson of Interim Business Solutions. You can read more about Kirsty at the end of this post.

Document formatting seems to be the in thing at the minute!

So far this year, the team have formatted anything from reports to brochures to international proposals.

The documents arrive in my inbox from the client and I then pass them onto the relevant specialist team member who will undertake the job.

So it’s vital we have an efficient, digital filing system in place so documents are not misplaced. This includes consistent file naming and ensuring all files are organised in a logical way with the versions also clearly labelled.

Let me assure you, this has huge benefits over time as your volume of electronic files grows.

Here are my top tips for setting up a virtual filing system:

Tip 1 – Short but meaningful file names

Make your file name unique and easily identifiable.

Include spaces between words to facilitate ease of searching and reading.

Also, avoid abbreviations and acronyms, and avoid symbols including: ~ ” # % & * : < > ? / \ { | }.

These can lead to confusion and you’ll run the risk of others not following your filing system.

I suggest a file name should be around 20 characters.

e.g. Letter-to-John-Smith.docx

It’s simple, straight forward and explains exactly what it is.

N.B: If you’re hosting files on the internet, I highly recommend replacing a space with a hyphen. Spaces are replaced with %20 in URLs so a file name can end up looking weird.

For example: Letter%20to%20John%20Smith.docx

Tip 2 – Add dates to add another search element

Most letters have the auto date inserted as it changes each time you open the document.

This ensures you always send an up to date letter to your clients.

However, this doesn’t allow you to reference when the original letter was created.

By adding the date to your file name, it adds another element to ensure that you not only have a unique file name, but that you can find the letter due to the date.

e.g. Letter-to-John-Smith-31052016.docx

Another quick tip – If you’re wanting to have your files in chronological order, you would label your file like this:

e.g. 20160531-Letter-to-John-Smith.docx

Tip 3 – Save multiple versions

When you’re working on a document that has multiple changes, it’s important to ensure you’re all working on the most current version. Therefore, you need to ensure you are labelling each version. Keep it simple with v1, v2, etc.

It’s also a good idea to retain all previous versions in an ‘Archive’ folder just in case you need to refer back to them.

e.g. 20160531-Letter-to-John-Smith-v2.docx

Tip 4 – Housekeeping and archiving

Keep your virtual folders and files sorted and tidy.

Set up an ‘archive’ folder to move all old versions of documents into.

If you have multiple versions, you may wish to go one step further and separate your archive folders into years.

Once a year, I highly recommend that you have a ‘housekeeping’ session.

Make sure all your virtual filing is in order and archive any old versions you no longer need. I like to do this during the quiet period over the New Year period.

So whatever filing conventions you decide for naming your documents, make sure it is consistent across your business and with those you collaborate with.

Your aim is to have all your files found readily by the users by either searching file names or dates.

If your files are in chaos, contact us and we’ll share with you our filing expertise to get your filing back into order.

With the correct filing system in place, you’ll quickly find your files rather than wasting your time searching in folder after folder.

About the author: Kirsty Wilson

Kirsty started Interim Business Solutions in 2005 to provide high quality, effective and efficient virtual assistant solutions to a range of businesses and individuals, in a range of locations.

I can personally vouch for Kirsty’s attention to detail, and friendly service.

Originally published on the Interim Business Solutions blog, titled “Even paperless offices need a virtual filing system.”

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