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10 Tips on Color Coding Your Paper: From Chaos to Coherence

Color-There Is No Substitute

In anatomical illustrations you see the brain's visual system, where the optic nerve is actually 25 times faster than our audio nerves (hearing). No matter which processing style you depend on, 90 percent of the sensory perceptions received by your brain are visual. This is undoubtedly why color-coding works even for Auditory and Kinesthetic Learners.

In my workshops, even at 50 feet you can see there are three different manila files as I hold them up. It's the magic of color - that 1/8-inch wide 3-inch long strip of color on the labels is enough to do it. It's a clear demonstration of how much difference color-coding can make to whether you can tell one folder from another. And that makes a big difference in how quickly you can find something.

Only Color-Code What You Can See

What's the only part of a filing system that you can actually see? The top tabs on the hanging and interior files. That's why you don't need to use solid-color folders to color-code your drawer files, only for Action files which you keep on top of your desk. You can use the less expensive manila files for your Reference, History, and Archive material. This will save you at least half the money it would cost you to set up a solid color file system.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

That's why so many people try to keep everything on their desktop. Except, there just isn't enough room! You can greatly improve the "visibility" of your files by using one-third cut clear plastic up-tabs for hanging files to color code so as soon as you open the drawer, everything in it easy to see and use.

Do not make the mistake of ordering 1/5 cut tabs on your files or up-tabs. They are just too small. And the older I get-the smaller those labels get!

When you alternate warm color labels (red, orange, yellow) with contrasting cool color labels (blue, green, purple) in your file sections, it's even easier to distinguish each section instantly. Use large fonts or writing on your labels to reduce your visual fatigue and errors.

Upgrading Your Current system to Color

If you've already got a good filing system going, here's a great way to punch up visibility inside the file drawer. Take your one third cut colored file labels, rip off the paper insert that goes inside the plastic up tab, apply your label directly to the insert, and voila! You've got a color-coded filing system started. Naturally you want the interior file to have the same matching color file label.

The key to color-coding is consistency. Once you "substitute" (or stop using) color labels and matching files in your office, it's chaos all over. Because you've re-created disorder, you'll never be sure if it's really a "blue" project or not. Don't pick Parisian Lavender for file label color-coding. If you use them up and the label color isn't trendy this year - there goes your system.

Go for primary colors (red, blue, green, yellow) and black and white - they'll be printing those labels next year for sure. Keep one hanging file filled with blank manila files and some of each of your colored labels in the front of the file drawer closest to you at your desk. That way it's fast and easy to make up a new color-coded file.

Get Your Color-Coding Done for You with File Kits

After fifteen years of working everywhere from executive suites to home offices, I'm convinced that 75 percent of small to mid-size business and home filing systems are the same. It's that other 25% that individuates each business. Most filing systems are about the business of doing business - or having a life!

I searched for years before I found FileSolutions(R) File kits, which I think are the best on the market whether you are an employee or own your own business.

My corporate employee clients often like the Home file kits (even if they're organized at work) as it completely distinguishes all of their personal files. Because so many people work partly at home, it is important to the blend the systems for both business and home office, while keeping them separate. Each of these kits uses a different set of colors for its categories, so you won't confuse business with personal.

Every FileSolutions(R) file kit includes a complete file index book, all the color-coded pre-printed up-tab paper labels for hanging files. Plus, their matching pre-printed adhesive labels for the interior file folders you already have (or new ones). Ofcourse, there are blank labels in every color to finish customizing your files.

I use the Home and Small Business File kits myself and I recommend them to my micro-to-small business clients. These kits will save you time and using them is much easier than having your office manager (you?) generate a business-of-doing-business filing system.

If you have employees, the Business File system is so well documented that you won't lose time, money and productivity by having a "better" filing system created every time you change office staff.

You don't have to be a personal productivity expert...

These kits are so well put together, my housekeeper (with no office experience) set up the tabbed files and matching hanging files, so I had the "skeleton" of a brand new color coded file system. It's just as easy to convert your current non-color coded files because it's just putting the new preprinted color-coded labels on your existing files. You can also upgrade your current file system with the labeling tips you've already seen.

Another advantage to the kits: if you go to the store and buy the supplies needed to do these color-coded parts of a file system, it's going to cost you more than the file kit. Let's not even mention the all the time it takes to figure out categories and decide what colors they should be. Since I use the home kit along with the small business kit in my own office, I don't hesitate to guarantee them.

Go Forth and Color-Code

No need to reinvent the organizing wheel. There are many products that can help you, but be sure how you'll use it and where you'll put it. Otherwise you're just going to end up with a bunch of brightly colored organizers that you've piled more chaos on.

Now you know the techniques and tools you'll need to succeed with your color-coding office tune-up. Go Forth and Color Code!

Copyright, Eve Abbott All Rights Reserved.

Eve Abbott's newest book "How to Do Space Age Work with a Stone Age Brain TM" is available online at http://www.organize.com. Remember to sign up for more of the Organizer Extraordinaire's time-saving tips. Enjoy free brain quizzes to help you work at your personal best!

"How to Do Space Age Work with a Stone Age Brain TM" is an entertaining, interactive guide offering free, online assessments to help make your own personal organizing solutions match your individual work style.

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