Temporary Action Files

Temporary Action files are files for any kind of 'project', regardless of size, that will come to an end at some point. Some action files remain open for a long period of time, others perhaps just a few days.

Whatever the duration of the project, Temporary Action files are a location for storing the information related to a project so that you can find it when you need to take action on it. Once they are no longer active, the information may need to be transferred to reference or archive files, or destroyed.

How and where you keep these will vary depending on the type of work you do and the volume of paperwork you need to manage. Keeping them in piles on your desk and/or floor is not a fool-proof method for following up on them.

Examples of Temporary Action Files

A solicitor's client files would be their action files. They may remain open for several weeks, months or years, but at some point they would become a 'closed' file.

What happens to a file when it is 'closed' will depend on any legal implications, a company's retention policy, and so on. For example, it may be transferred to an Archive file, or converted to electronic format and the paperwork destroyed.

An action file that remains open for a short time might be, for example, the paperwork related to a conference you intend to visit. Along with details of the conference it could contain details of your hotel, itinerary, a map and travel directions, booking confirmations, etc. You may decide that a file of this type can be destroyed when it has served its purpose, or you may decide to transfer some or all of the papers to your Reference files in case you need to access the information in the future.

Locating Your Files

Keep your Temporary Action files fairly close to hand if possible. However, depending on the number and size of Temporary Action files, you may have to locate them away from your desk.

As temporary action files contain paperwork for current projects, then ideally they should be closer than the files you keep for 'future reference'.

Where you keep them will depend on what kind of work you do, how many active files you have and how much paperwork they involve. You might be able to fit all of your action files in just one desk filing drawer or you might have several filing cabinets' full of files that are each a few inches thick.

If there are several files relating to particular projects or categories, you may decide to keep each set of files in a different place or 'location', e.g. separate drawers, cabinets, shelves, etc.

For example you may decide to keep customer files in one filing cabinet and employee files in another. Large projects may generate enough paperwork to warrant a separate filing location, while it may be possible to file other smaller projects together.

Filing Your Action Files

Use a simple filing system that enables you to find your files quickly, e.g. filed alphabetically by surname, project name, event name, etc. Or use Taming the Paper Tiger software so that you can find your files in seconds - regardless of how they are filed - using a simple keyword search.

The key thing to remember is to keep your filing system as simple as possible.

People are inclined to over-complicate a filing system because they believe that it must be complex in order to cope with the complexity of the information that they are having difficulty managing. In reality they often end up creating problems for themselves that might not otherwise have existed.

It's better to start off with a simple system and sub-divide if it starts to become unmanageable.

Categories & Colour Co-ordinating

Sub-dividing files into different categories may work perfectly well for you, but what do you do when a file spans more than one category? You're then faced with the dilemma of deciding which category to store it in.

Colour co-ordinating files is another popular choice that is used to help to quickly identify different types of files. Files may be stored in different coloured document wallets or binders, etc or details may be written on different coloured record cards.

Again, this may work perfectly well but what if a file changes 'type' and therefore needs to be transferred from one coloured file to another? How much work will creating the new file generate and what problems might be caused while it's awaiting the changeover?

If you want to colour co-ordinate your files, you can do this simply with the use of different coloured labels or stickers. For example, if you store your files in document wallets, you could use the same coloured wallets for all file types but place clearly visible coloured stickers on the spine and on the front so that they can still be easily identified. Stickers or labels can be removed or replaced more quickly than it takes to set up a new file.

Using coloured stickers can also solve the problem of files that span more than one type or category because you can use stickers for each colour that applies.


See Also Did You Know...?
  • 80% of papers that are filed are never referenced again
  • more facts...
Quotable Quotes

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex... It takes a touch of genius - and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.

- Albert Einstein