How to Set Up a Filing System – Naming Conventions

I’ve been a proud part of the “Meet the Pros” team in a seasonal series of organization magazines from Better Homes & Gardens. The process usually starts with a phone interview and ends with several follow-up questions.

During our most recent project, I received these follow up questions asking for details about how to set up a filing system, specifically the naming conventions:

For another illustration we are thinking about showing a folder labeled expense report, with several sub-folders shown. Is there any specific way you would recommend labeling these folders?

We were thinking of something like 1.2021 receipts and report; 2.2021 receipts and report to try to show how to organize these chronologically.

Are we on the right track? Or is there a better naming convention to use?

The following was my answer:

If you want to file expense report receipts chronologically, the naming convention you listed will cover it for physical file folders. If this is digital, I recommend:

2021 01 receipts and report

2021 02 receipts and report

This will sort the folders chronologically in a digital file cabinet.

But not all documents require chronological filing.

The naming convention will depend on:

1) who needs to retrieve the documents in the files and

2) why.

For example, if these are receipts that need to be organized for your CPA, the files should be labeled by the tax categories for your situation. Here’s an example:

Income – Royalty

Income – 1099

Income – W2

Income – Capital Gains

Expenses – Marketing

Expenses – Client Gifts


If these files are for your personal receipts and billing statements that aren’t tax deductible, they can simply be labeled by the month:





At the end of the year, you can shred what you don’t need, then store any you just can’t let go of with your tax archive for that year. Then reuse the monthly folders.

If the expense report is for work, these are usually stored by client account and then either by date or by expense category, depending on the accounting department’s preferences.

There are so many variables when it comes to naming conventions and document management. For recommendations on what to do in various situations for optimal paper or digital filing systems, be sure to check out chapters 18-20 in The Inefficiency Assassin: Time Management Tactics for Working Smarter, Not Longer.

About Helene Segura, M.A. Ed., CPO®

As The Inefficiency Assassin™, Time Management Fixer Helene Segura empowers professionals on the go with the tools to slay lost time. Personal inefficiency at work leads to increased stress levels, lower morale, higher absenteeism, more turnover – and rising spending on employee health care and hiring. Why not improve productivity, decrease stress levels, and increase profits instead? The author of four books – two of which were Amazon best-sellers – Helene Segura has been the featured organization expert in more than 200 media interviews. She has coached hundreds of clients to productivity success and performance improvement by applying neuroscience and behavioral modification techniques to wipe out destructive, time-wasting habits. Helene turns time management on its head by sharing both client case studies and pop culture examples to teach her mind-bending framework for decreasing interruptions, distractions and procrastination so that companies can spend more time generating revenue.

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