The importance of having a well-organized office filing system is never more apparent than when an important document goes missing. Inefficient filing systems can result in wasted time, money and lead to poor decision making if the missing document contains an integral piece of information and you must form a decision without it. One way to create order from chaos is to set up a numeric office filing system, where you assign numbers to records, such as purchase orders, inventory items and estimates, and file information in ascending order, or from the lowest to highest number.

Things You Will Need
  • Numbering system

  • File cabinet

  • File divider guides

  • File divider tabs

  • File folders, assorted colors

  • Labels

Set Up Categories and Numbering System

Set up file categories and assign control numbers. List individual departments within your organization separately. Assign a main control number for each department. For example, a small business might choose to set up categories, such as "Financial," "Sales," "Purchasing," "Human Resources" and "Equipment." Assign a control number to identify each main category, such as 100 to Financial; 200, Sales; 300, Purchasing; 400, Human Resources; and 500, Equipment.

Set up file subcategories and assign subcontrol numbers to define and identify each subcategory. For example, to the Sales category, you could add 10 for Sales Reports; 20, Sales Estimates; and 30, Sales Receipts.

Set up a numbering system within each subcategory to identify individual documents within the subcategory. This will become the number you print on the document itself. For example, if you send in an order for preprinted sales estimate forms, you would list the number of the first form as 200-20-01, or 200 20 01, if you prefer. Each successive document will increment by one. You would print "200-20-02" on the second sales estimate form, for example.

Create a master index of your filing plan. This will serve as a table of contents for your filing cabinet.

Set Up Cabinet

Establish a color-coding system to identify main and subcategories. For example, you could establish a rule that uses a blue file divider label to identify main categories. Colored file folders could then identify subcategories, as in red folders for sales reports, green folders for sales estimates and yellow folders for sales receipts. Labels on file folders will identify its contents, such as labels that display 01-100, 101-200 and so on.

Create main category divider tabs and place in filing cabinet. Label and place initial subcategory file folders in the filing cabinet and add as necessary.

File documents in the appropriate numerical order.


Take some time to identify the needs of your business and decide on a category and numbering system that makes sense for your business.

If you use a computerized accounting system and print your own forms, you may need to change the numbering system to reflect filing requirements. For example, the numbering on Sales Estimate forms could start at 200-20-01 and increment by one for each new estimate.

Provide a specific location and container for all documents not yet filed, in case you require access to them in the interim.

The best way to ensure you keep up with filing requirements is to establish a schedule, such as daily or weekly.