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A-Z reference filing

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  • A-Z reference filing

    I am sure this has been discussed before, but would like to get some input from others on how to use the A-Z filing. I am setting this up now and just would like others thoughts on the matter. As an example, if you had several investments, stock, bonds, statements from various broker acct. Thoughts on how these should be filed. Under 'I' for investments and then folder for 'Investments-bonds', 'investments-stocks', investments-Merrill Lynch'. Or under 'B' folder for Bonds, S folder for stocks. Same kind of question for Insurance, all insurance under 'I' , folder for Insurance - home, Insurance- Medical, Insurance-Vehicles or 'H' for home insurance, M for medical insurance and so forth. Just would like some input/thoughts so I can make my decision. thanks for your help.

  • #2
    Filing Ideas

    Some thoughts:

    1) For most stuff, just file it. If it's in the wrong place for you and has enough value that you see it often, you can change the label and refile it! I was listening to the GTD Fast CD's yesterday in the car and got to the point where DA says something like this: "With too many filing systems, it takes an act of Congress to get something filed."

    2) For one-of-a-kind files, the name that comes to you first is often the first place you'll look for the file.

    3) For files that have some connection, does that connection mean that you will be using them at the same time? Then it is convenient to put them together. But you might want to file "Medical Insurance" near "Medical History" rather than as "Insurance, Medical" after "Insurance, Home."

    4) Some stuff is easier not to file, or to file separately. For example, financial information may come from a broker ready to place in notebooks, and might be too bulky for files in any case.


    • #3
      I'd suggest flattening your file system out as much as possible. For personal filing in particular, do you really need subcategories and subsubcategories? Should your brokerage account statement go under financial/investments/stocks/Merrill Lynch, or just under Merrill Lynch? My guess is the latter, unless your finances are far more complex than average.

      My files consist of:
      Folders for each account holder, alphabetical by name of financial institution, moved to long-term storage annually.
      Folders for generic classes of information (utilities, homeowner's insurance, car service information) alphabetical by class, purged whenever the file gets too thick or the information becomes obsolete.
      (These two together take less than one standard file drawer.)

      Work-related reference information, alphabetical by topic, purged annually or whenever the file gets too thick.
      Materials for completed projects, chronologically by completion date, purged annually. (I keep hanging files for each month, and purge each month as it comes around again the following year.)
      Materials for current projects, by client name.
      (All of this takes about another standard file drawer.)

      And that's it. Why on earth would I need or want a four-level hierarchy to organize two file drawers?



      • #4
        Alternate system

        File numerically in the order the item arrives .... and keep an index on a spreadsheet so you can easily find it.


        • #5
          Simple files and the Wife System

          I second mcogilvie's and kewms' comments -- keep the system as flat and simple as possible, and above all just file the stuff, under whatever name makes the most sense at the time. The very act of printing the label and filing the item will help establish a memory that will come back to you when you ask yourself, "Where did I put the ______?"

          As for what to label a file, I sometimes resort to the Wife Index System. I look at the item and ask, if one of us were looking for this, and I asked my wife (or she asked me) "Hey, where is the ________?" what would fill in the blank?

          For a basic A-to-Z filing system, whatever is the most likely way to refer to something in coversation seems to be the best way to label the file.



          • #6
            If the original poster is asking how to label things, the important thing is to label them using terms that make sense to you. I have a folder labeled "Utilities" and all my electrical, water, etc. bills and correspondence go in there. Others might have separate folders for each utility. It doesn't matter.

            If you have a statement in your hand and someone asks you, "What's that?", the first thing you can think of to reply should be the name of the folder.


            • #7
              I'm with Brent on this one, I tend to create a file with the most logical name based on how I'd most likely remember where to look. The simpler the filing the fewer place I have to look! e.g. at home I have a file called Phones where everything to do with the household phones go - bills, information, gaurentees etc - file called Tax which houses payslips, revenue communications, tax codes etc.

              Regualr clearouts are required though which is no bad thing !


              • #8
                My 3-File Approach

                I use a three file approach. See the following links for a more in depth discussion:



                Click on the picture to see photos of the filing systems.

                When filing in the reference files, instead of thinking, "Where should I file this," I think, "Where will I look for this when I need it?" That's how I decide the label to use.


                • #9
                  I agree that you need to file it in a place with a logical name where you will look for it when you want to retrieve it.

                  Had an example of this yesterday, we're going to sell a car and needed to find the title we got when we paid off the car. It was in a file marked Saturn, because that is the car's manufacturer. Everything that relates to this car is in that file. So I could go to the file and retrieve it speedily. Such a change from life pre-GTD, where hours of searching would have ensued because the title never would have been filed in the first place...


                  • #10
                    I've been using the A-Z system for a few months now, and it works extremely well, but only (in my opinion) because I also use an electronic index. I do have a number of papers that could be filed under one of several headings. I also have papers that could be filed on their own under one heading or could usefully be grouped with others under a more generic heading. By using an electronic index I can immediately locate the file. I use PersonalBrain for this. The file name goes in as a 'thought' and can be linked to other 'thoughts', whether or not they represent physical files. Thoughts can be linked in a 'child/parent' relationship or in an undefined relationship. To locate a file I just type Ctrl-Z and start typing the name of the thing I want. This works regardless of what program I'm in at the time, and I usually only have to type the first three letters to locate the file. If the 'thought' is in brown font I know a file of that name exists. If it's in a white font then it will be linked to a brown 'thought', showing how it's filed.

                    I think I've made this sound a bit complicated - apologies! The important point is that, despite having to check an electronic index first, I can get to the file I want extremely quickly.