Wouldn’t it be great if you could find a document on your computer without having to hunt around or open several files before you found what you were looking for? More than ever before we need to be able to function digitally for work, and that includes storing and accessing your accounting records.
The goal of naming files is to ensure that the document is not only easy to find but that you can also identify the contents of that file by simply reading the file name. Here are some simple tips for naming and organizing your digital files without the need for any special software.
Things to consider in naming files
- If this record were in paper format, how would I label it and file it in a filing cabinet?
- How will people “think of” this record?
- How will people be accessing the files?
- What information is most important to capture in the file name itself?
I need to look at the XYZ bank statement for January 2021.
I need to see the payroll deductions for Jane Doe for the paycheck she received on January 8, 2021.
I need to gather all the check copies we received from ABC Foundation so far this year.
What checks made up the deposit that posted to our bank account on December 31, 2020?
Tips for naming files
- Create unique file names that are consistent and easy to understand.
- Order the pieces of information in the file name in the most logical order based on retrieval methods.
- When using a number in a file name always use a minimum of two characters. For example, two would be 02.
- Do not use words to represent dates, such as November, Nov, or N.
- A good format for date designations is YYYY.MM.DD or YYYY.MM. This format makes sure all your files stay in chronological order, especially when your fiscal year is different from the calendar year.
Once you have your files named, you can organize your folders in a way that aligns with your organization’s document retention and destruction policy.
One way to structure your files is to separate the items you want to keep indefinitely from the fiscal year items you only need to keep for a certain number of years.
For the files you only need to keep for a certain number of years, consider adopting a document retention and destruction policy so the number of years is the same. For example, instead of having some items retained for 5 years and some items retained for 7 years, have all items retained for 7 years. This way you can keep all your fiscal year records in one folder and delete that folder at the designated time.
Then you can create subfolders under the fiscal year to organize your documents in a way that makes sense for your organization. This fiscal year folder set-up example is based on our Document Destruction policy sample form.
You can also set up subfolders under the permanent records to organize your documents in a way that makes sense for your organization. This permanent records folder set-up example is based on our Document Destruction policy sample form.
These are some ideas to get you started organizing your digital files in a way that best suits the needs and uses of your organization so you can find what you need when you need it.
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