Quick Tips: Using Index Tabs

Two weeks ago, one of my friends mentioned some cool toys she got while perusing her local OfficeMax mecca. She found some really nifty index tabs for binders and was looking for advice on how to use them in her latest project. So, I put on my enabler hat and gave her some advice and suggestions on how I use my index tabs. With a little planning, mixing and matching of your favorite styles, you can create fun and useful binders that keep all your subjects together. Apparently we weren’t the only ones wondering how to use tabs creatively or efficiently. Turns out that many of you were discussing similar ideas and new tab products in the forums recently as well.

Index tabs are awesome. They divide sections up and keep your papers orderly. If used properly they can save you time when you’re looking for specific reference material. Before you start buying out your local office supply store and filling large binders full of plastic tabbed pages, keep the following tips in mind.

Figure out how many sections you need. When I’m working on a new binder of reference material, I always try and figure out how many sections I’ll need. Ask yourself how many sections you think you’ll need. Do you think you’ll need two styles of tabs? (One for sections and another for subsections?) Do you want tabs with pockets or page holders? Getting the facts down and planning out which tabs you want can save you a trip or two to the store. Of course, if you like going to the store a few times a week, you can do this too.

Label your sections. Always write down the name of the section. You’ll forget the name if you don’t. Trust me. I have two binders that do not have labels on them and over the years I’ve forgotten what exactly those sections need.

Allow room for growth. The perfect sized binder you bought today, may not be so perfect when you add another inch or more of reference paper. Plan for the future and attempt to guess how many extra index tabs or binders you will need.

Mix and Match. One thing I’ve learned to do is to vary the Tab styles. I love mixing and matching colored tabs and white tabs together. I even vary the tab sizes in my binders. Most of my binders use 8-tab (short style) for a primary tab style. Then I mix in the 5-tab (longer style) for sub-subjects. Of course, if you only have 5 sections total, you can reverse this idea and use the 8 tabs as the sub-subjects.

Create your own tabs. Not happy with the current selection of tabs on the market? Want to inject some DIY into your binders? Then make your own tabs. Many art supply stores carry colorful and funky tab stickers that you can buy and then apply to any page (even those in reference books). You can also punch a single hole in the title page and then hang small tags off to the side of them to remind you of important notes or dates.

Got advice on how you use index tabs or other items to separate sections in a binder? Why not let us know what you did by writing about it in the comments below. Better yet, take pictures and upload them to the D*I*Y Planner Flickr group so we can oogle at them.

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