In the beginning, there was the manila folder. And it was good. All your information fit into one compact place. So you put more info into it. And more. And more.

And then it stopped working. Folders bulged like Vegas-era Elvis in a three-piece rhinestone suit. Stuff spilled out. You couldn't find what you were looking for. You bought Pendaflex pocket folders to handle the spillover, but that only posponed the inevitable. Eventually, you were back in the same boat.

It's not just kids with the obesity problem. It's your filing system. It doesn't work.

Here's what to do: separate your working files (the active stuff that you touch daily, or several times a week) from the reference files (the stuff you only look at occasionally).

So you'll make two fiiles for Spacely Sprockets: a working file and a reference file. the working file is in your desk and has only the current contract and papers relating to a recent order. It's easy to access the six pieces of paper (or email or Word docs) that are an issue today.

The reference file is in a file cabinet and contains everything you've ever done with Spacely. If you need it, it's there. When you don't -- which is most of the time -- it's out of your way.

The 80/20 rule holds true for your paperwork (and electronic files): 80% of your work will be in 20% of your files. Keep that 20% separate, and you'll avoid the stress and chaos of misplaced information.

Even if you eat at McDonalds.

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