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Managing hard copy and computer reference files

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  • Managing hard copy and computer reference files

    I recently started a new job working with Rights and Permissions for a publisher. I have thousands of reference files to manage. Many of them are signed agreements that we need to keep in hard copy. I'm torn about whether to try to keep only hard copy files or whether to try and keep up the computer files, also. Many of the computer files are duplicates of the hard copy files but info may be missing from one or the other.
    I'm trying to put as much of the data as possible (not related to signed contracts) into spreadsheets and databases-so those are much easier to manage and purge.
    I'd really appreciate any advice you can give me. GTD is the best system I've ever tried!

  • #2
    managing hard copy and computer reference files

    I am in a development office, and have tons of proposals pending and awarded. Every one needs a hard copy, because of the myriad attachments. But I also need to be able to find them electronically (to cut-n-paste my eloquent prose for the next masterpiece, of course!)

    I am working with a "Proposals" hard file, in alphabetical order. This is separate from my other GTD file cabinet drawers. These manila folders stuck into Pendaflex folders also contain any working documents, calculations, etc.

    I keep them electronically as well, in a simple tree system on the hard drive - also alphabetical by the foundation name, then any sub-program names, all under the big branch "Proposals Written."

    This way I can find what I need either place. I tend to use electronic first. I am often referring to them for the deliverables, any reporting requirements over the term of the grant, etc.

    I use long file names and sub-folders to speed my searches. For example: Proposals Written/A-D/ABC Foundation/2004/Education Program/Project X-final form, missing 990" or something like that to remind me of any differences. And I use bright sticky notes to remind of anything I might need to remember when accessing the paper file as well.

    I rarely purge - the documentation is very important. Eventually, like in 10 years or so, I suppose it would be possible to have some of it weeded and tthen stored or destroyed, but they are contractual, so it is best to keep them.

    Perhaps this will help your thinking on how to manage your deluge! Your requirements will vary, but this could be a starting point for you.



    • #3
      deciding between paper and digital, or both

      Redundant systems are never exactly the same, so I think over time you get a lot of background stress because of the one you might be missing in one or the other. I would recommend one or the other.

      The best book on the subject of paper vs. digital I have read is "The Myth of the Paperless Office". Well-researched and documented, they let you decide which would be best. Both have advantages and disadvantages.


      • #4
        Thank you both for your replies!

        Emkay, you are an inspiration. I'm glad to know it's possible to keep both straight. Before I received your reply, we decided to try paper only. In just one week, I spent some extra time retyping two long documents, so paper only wasn't the way to go. At this point I'm leaning toward paper, but keeping the following electronically:
        -very active files
        -anything I might need to use for a reply or forward, including my eloquent prose.

        Scott, I agree about my not being able to keep both systems complete. That's my current frustration. I just ordered the book and I'm so grateful for your recommendation.

        Any more comments are certainly welcome. I certainly haven't figured this out yet


        • #5
          Re: deciding between paper and digital, or both

          On the other hand, there is also an advantage to redundancy. In biological and networked systems, redundancy is one requirement for "fault-tolerance." If information is extremely important, you have to maintain it redundantly.



          • #6
            redundancy vs. one place

            I think that redundancy can work either before things are getting done, or after, but not during. In other words, having several places where you can find a bit of reference information might help insure you will find it when you need it (or more likely, someone else who doesn't know your system but needs to find it in your stuff). The trouble for me is when I am trying to actually get something done (i.e. active, actionable). If I have more than one bucket for one type of thing, then I have more to decide than simply Outcome and Next Action. I have to decide which of the several possible reminder buckets to put it in (calendar or tickler?, or even worse, which calendar?). Then, I end up trusting it less because there are more possible places to look (or to miss) when I am reviewing my lists for potential actions. I diagrammed my organizing phase by figuring out where each potential result of my Processing could go. David's diagram only has eight places, including trash. Within each of those, personal preference reigns, but efficiency and trust must be part of the equation. Where, and in what form, can you keep that information so it will be easily retrievable (relative to how often you actually need to retrieve it), and completely off your mind?


            • #7
              managing hard copy and computer reference files

              sjacobsen, thanks! Nobody's every called me an inspiration before!

              This is more of an add-on or extension to a filing system however - it shouldn't be your entire GTD filing system. It is additional, used only for my actual proposals, and customized to the specifc requirements of my type of job.

              I agree with scott m about the pitfalls of multiple buckets - be very clear to note any differences between paper and electronic files. I have developed my own convention for that: "-final" is only used for the very last version, as mailed out, with a sticky note on the paper version that says the same thing. I'm pretty religious about noting differences, or what's lacking.

              The weird thing with proposals and progam development is that there are lots of "what if" calculations that never make it to the final paper, yet it is really in my best interests to be able to reconstruct the thinking behind those calculations at some later date. So into the paper file they go - even if they are scribbled on the paper placemat of the cafe down the street. (I do my best work there - ought to rent out a booth and move my office there altogether!)