Advantages & disadvantages of chronological filing

Written by robyn lynne schechter
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Advantages & disadvantages of chronological filing
Chronological files start with the oldest dated document. (Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images)

Chronological filing is a method of filing documents that allows you to maintain all documents associated with a particular transaction or business relationship. Chief among its benefits is that chronological filing is thorough recordkeeping. It is capable of telling a story about the transaction or relationship to a person unfamiliar with events. However, chronological filing has its disadvantages and its sister filing method may offer a better system, depending on the documents being maintained.

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Definition

Chronological filing means organising documents, receipts and other records using the date on the document or the date the file was created or modified. The oldest document is placed at the beginning of the file with all subsequent documents being placed in a similar manner according to the date and month (e.g., August 1, September 15, August 30).

Pros

Chronological filing is an excellent method for major purchases and significant business relationships. All related documents are kept from the date of purchase or start of the relationship to current day, which allows you to explain precisely how events have occurred and what people or entities have been involved. The thoroughness of chronological filing can be especially helpful in litigation. Chronological filing also allows you to quickly access the specific documents you need without searching through the entire file so long as you know the time frame in which the documents were created or modified.

Cons

Chronological filing can result in large files that take up a vast amount of space. Also, chronological files can contain unimportant papers, such as form letters and routine correspondence, that do not need to be filed. Since all papers relating to a matter are kept it may be difficult to easily pull a particular document that you need if you do not know the date it was created or modified. One way to mitigate this disadvantage is to maintain an index of all documents in the file with one column listing the date of the document and a second column describing the document so that you can easily locate a particular document. The index should be updated each time a new document is added to the file.

Reverse Chronological Filing

Another related, but different method of filing, is reverse chronological filing. Using this method, the newest document is placed at the beginning of the file with all documents being filed in a similar manner (e.g., June 1, May 1, April 1). Whether to use the chronological or reverse chronological method is a personal preference, but many people prefer the latter for filing items such as paid credit card or utility bills because older invoices and payment confirmations may rarely need to be accessed.

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