When it comes time to organize files, the common wisdom (and good advice, too) is to put everything together in a file cabinet in alphabetical order. No matter the subject, put the files in alphabetical order by their title.

Then when you need a file, you can get it out of the file cabinet, and put it back when done. When you choose the file titles wisely (usually by picking the first thing which comes to mind as a topic), this works well.

However, I added another step in my system that seemed to work and work quite well. When you take out a file folder from the file cabinet, instead of putting it back, put it in the front of a small file drawer. Even though this goes against the recommendation to sort alphabetically, what happens is the smaller file drawer is then sorted by frequency of use. The most often used files will be toward the front of the drawer.

Then, from time to time, take the files out of the back of the drawer (that is, the oldest files and least used) and put them back into the file cabinet.

These added steps mean that your file drawer is automatically filled with the most often used files, and the file cabinet is much easier to weed out and is also less often used in favor of the file drawer (which is normally closer).

Try it and see if I’m right…