The Strategist

Getting Documents Organized

12/01/2015 - 16:50

The world famous book about personal effectiveness “Getting Things Done” was first published in 2001 and then translated into 30 languages. The book is still actual. Here are some tips for keeping documents from the author, David Allen.
I strongly recommend that you develop your own storage system, which will be always at hand. Not more than a minute should be spared for fishing out a document from the "Inbox" basket or printing an e-mail. The same goes to decision on whether can it be delayed or not. If the sequence of these actions takes more than a minute, people usually "speed up" the process in their own way: simply put the document on a stack of papers or stuff into somewhere. When the system does not bring satisfaction, is not easy to use, slow, obsolete or incomplete, people get a subconscious reluctance to empty the "Inbox" basket. The reason is that there is a pile of documents to be distributed, and no way to do it fast and easily. Do not get despaired: I have seen people who could not stand the process of sorting the documents. Yet, once they create an individual system of data organizing, they started to enjoy it.

You must be equally comfortable with both putting separate incoming documents in the inbox, and streamlining more formal and lengthy documents. Creating and organizing folders takes a lot of efforts and time. So people either do not do it, or stock up cupboards and drawers with various documents such as local cafe menus or train schedules. No matter what kind of actions you would need to get the system organized, it should be done anyway. My system works very well on me and other people who decided to take advantage of it, and I strongly recommend you consider implementing the following rules that will bring the process of organizing information to automatism.

Keep folders with background information of a general nature within your reach.

The sorting process should be simple and fast. If you have to get up every time you need to put some unique piece of paper in a box, you will get a tendency to accumulate materials, not sort them. Most likely, you will begin to hate the "Inbox" business (as you will know that certainly there is documents that need sorting). Many professionals remade their offices so that cabinet with reference data were literally at their fingertips, not on the other end of the room.

Keep a pile of empty folders near you.

I keep on hand a huge pile of new empty folders. This way I can sort documents without getting up. It the worst situation when you have nothing to put materials in. At any moment of time, I have to have approximately half a box of unused folders on hand.

Do not let the boxes get filled for more than three quarters.

If they are packed to capacity, you will experience a subconscious reluctance to put documents in and the background will gradually pile up. The box can be emptied completely during a call. I have almost no friends without boxes bursting with documents. If you want to get rid of the subconscious resistance to the process of sorting, keep boxes free enough to easily add in and extract a folder from there. Some people can exclaim: "I have to buy a new file cabinets!" as if it's something terrible. However, if the materials are worth keeping them, they should be kept so that they are available, right? Otherwise, why bother to keep them at home? It is said that we live in the information age. If this statement has any truth, and some of your actions hamper progress, they are simply foolish. You may need to create another tier of storage reference information to have ample workspace and folders with reference data of a general nature at hand. For example, notes on completed projects and 'dead' customer information may be kept in other areas, or at least outside of your workplace.

Buy high-quality cabinets.

There is nothing worse than attempts to open a heavy box or creaking that you hear when you fight with the stuck wheels of a cheap cabinet. You need drawers that can be opened and closed easily and smoothly, like the doors of German cars. And I'm not kidding.

Don't use the suspension files if possible.

At the risk of seriously offending a lot of people who already enjoy hanging folders, I recommend that you completely abandon the cabinet with hanging files and folders. Instead, use regular storage boxes. Suspension files are less effective, since adding a new folder requires significant energy costs and makes the process of sorting the information formal.

Based upon “Getting Things Done” by David Allen