While it can seem like a tedious process, capturing all your letters, documents and receipts in a digital filing system can save you time and panic when you need to find that one important item from X months ago.
Categories of Life
The top level of your folder structure should be the same as the categories of life. In my case, I have six categories and therefore I have created six corresponding folders, such as career, personal, health, finance, fitness, and education. A good starting point is to determine your own categories of life and then add new folders for them.
Digital Document Scanning
Ever since I moved out of home, I have been unable to stick to a physical filing system for all the letters, documents, receipts, etc that I accumulate each month. I would typically resort to making piles of papers and then throwing them out in bulk every 6 months or so. This way I never actually captured the documents, I just had a sub-concise buffer period for how long I thought I needed to keep them.
Now the system I use allows me to keep all the letters, documents and receipts organised in subfolders. Throughout the course of a month and whenever I receive something I need to file, I scan it with the Scan Documents feature in the Apple files app. To start, all these documents, accumulate in a landing area where I sort them into their subsequent folders once a month.
The trick with getting this system to work is forming the habit of scanning documents as you receive them. Next is to once a month sort them into the correct subfolders. You can trigger this by using a reminder from your favourite app. In my case, I sort all my documents into their folders at the end of every month and am reminded by the Apple Reminders app.
Most document filing programs contain some tagging system. In my case, I use the Apple Finder solution, this provides the ability to tag documents with colour-coded attributes. I use the tags for financial years, so I can see all relevant documents for a particular FY in the same place, regardless of if they are from a range of different sub-folders or categories. There are endless ways you can tag your documents and a good starting point is to think about how you would like to group documents outside of the defined folders.
The top level of the hierarchy should be your categories of life, however, the files underneath should allow for easy sorting of files. A good rule of thumb is that if you have five or more files in a folder, you should consider creating a sub-folder and grouping them together. These subfolders need to be mutually exclusive, to ensure that there is no confusion when you are sorting your files into folders. In other words, it should never make sense for a file to go into two different folders.
Implementing the above has allowed me to find and track countless documents over the past couple of years. Hopefully, this has given you the motivation to sort out your digital filing system and maybe even give you the push to switch as many paper letters or receipts to a digital alternative.