The Rule of 5: Helping You Organize Your Filing Cabinet

During my time as a records analyst for state agency units, as well as my experience working in the State Records Center, I have dealt with my fair share of disorganized files, especially searching through the dreaded “miscellaneous” box or folder.  Anyone in your office can put anything they so desire in this folder.  When filing, some workers head immediately for this folder without first seeing if the records they are filing have their own folder!

Frustrations like this can be easily avoided by following the “Rule of 5.”  I recently gave a workshop at the State Records Center (a schedule for this and other workshops is linked to below) for state agency employees and based on the feedback I received, this particular method of organizing miscellaneous files seemed to be very enlightening for many attendees.

The Rule of 5 is very simple:  Its express purpose is to eliminate miscellaneous or general file folders, this adding subjects to your filing system.  This is to cut down on the possibility of losing this file in the swampy morass which uncontrolled miscellaneous folders can sometimes become.  Create your “Rule of 5” folder and place however many you need behind each primary subject guide in your filing cabinet.  If you believe a file is “general” or “miscellaneous”, place it in the Rule of 5 folder.  Once you have accumulated five files of the same secondary subject, remove those files and give them their own file.  (Primary subjects are your main subjects; e.g. personnel, student files, patient files, etc.  Secondary subjects are subdivisions of the primary subjects, such as applications, position descriptions, and training for personnel files).

Following this simple procedure will cut down on the amount of files casually tossed into the miscellaneous folder.  If you are a records officer or manager, make sure you inform any employees with access to these files about the Rule of 5 system, ensuring everyone will be on the same page when it comes to classifying their files.

Here is our schedule for upcoming state agency workshops: