Filing is a never-ending task with paper documents. Here is a novel approach. From Linking Chan/Seon/Zen Figures and Their Texts: Problems and Developments in the Construction of a Relational Database by Michel Mohr in the Journal of Digital Information v3n2.
3.4 Classify or Not? Parallel Treatment of Analog and Digital Information
Researchers often spend far more time collecting and storing information than they do analyzing it and using it to formulate new hypotheses. In the humanities, figures indicate that as much as 80 percent of our time is dedicated to mechanical tasks, among these the classification of documents. Noguchi Yukio 野口悠紀雄 argues that for the individual researcher, classification is an endless and fruitless task (1993, 1995, 1999, 2000), and proposes that library-type classification by subject be discarded in favor of chronological ordering (that is, ordering on the basis of what document has last been used). His method basically involves putting all material into A4 envelopes and placing the most recently used envelope at the end of the row. Having applied it to my own work for the past two years I am completely free of the "lost child syndrome" ("Now where did I put that piece of paper!").
Noguchi's ideas are largely inspired by discoveries related to the use of computers. He argues that although we have entered the age of digital information, our thinking is still largely conditioned by habits inherited from our long dependence on paper. We have been led by force of habit to believe that if information is not properly labeled or classified then it will be impossible to find when needed. Noguchi shows, however, that this is not necessarily the case.
Nevertheless, when building a database there seems to be no way to avoid using fields, which amounts to classifying. Similarly, the entire process of tagging, be it in SGML or XML formats, involves labeling items of knowledge, often for commercial purposes. The digitization of data in itself does not necessitate classifying, but the use of database applications compels it to a certain extent. Categories, even the most sophisticated ones, once used necessarily reflect the limits of our vocabulary and conceptual horizon.
Studying the history of religions implies the willingness to take on the viewpoint of the object of study. When the objects of study are Chan/Seon/Zen figures, this may sometimes demand that we, like Zen monks, impose silence upon our discursive minds and employ our more holistic abilities in order to grasp relationships which are difficult to codify. This should not be misconstrued as a negation of rational ways of thinking, but as an augmentation of them. In Buddhism, after all, the logic of equality precedes the logic of differentiation without invalidating it.
This mimics many people's email filing techniques of just using an inbox to keep documents sorted - Google's GMAIL famously dispenses with any need to file things directly if you don't want to.
European Patent EP 1001354 references this technique and Noguchi's book "Chou Seiri Hou (Ultra Management Technique)".
For comic relief, my new filing technique is unstoppable.
For more on a Noguchi approach to filing for electronic documents, see Jeff Porten's "Getting Things Done with your Macintosh" series on TidBits (issue 840).
One of the Noguchi books is available (in Japanese) from Amazon.co.jp. Thanks to Eric Sinclair for helping me track this one down.