Filing Single Sheets as References

Discussion in 'PUBLIC: Discuss the GTD Methodology' started by skeeta, Jan 28, 2019.

  1. skeeta

    skeeta Registered

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    Hi All,

    Been wrestling with implementing GTD for a long time (years, in fact - some parts are easier than others).

    I have a problem, and I cannot find an answer to it.

    How do I file (let's say) 100-200 (for example) single sheets of paper (documents, like letters received in the post), without 'wasting' space in my filing cabinet (the hanging folder type)?
    I scan them all to searchable PDF files (finally got the PDF search working in Win8/Win7!), but I simply cannot justify using one folder (of the filing cabinet hanging type) for a single sheet of paper.
    The folder is more than 5 or 6 times the thickness and this seems a complete waste of filing cabinet space.
     
  2. David Parker

    David Parker GTD Connect

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    1. As you PDF all the items, you could discard the paper originals and file the PDFs in whatever folder system you use for Reference, then they wouldn't take up space in your filing cabinet.

    2. Alternatively, you could keep the paper folder to a minimum size by trashing items after a suitable period of time. For example, I discard year old credit card statements when I file the current month's statement. You would still have the PDFs for reference.

    3. If any of the items are not purely Reference but are needed to support an action, then they should be filed under Project (or Action) Support and only moved to Reference when the Action is completed.
     
  3. mcogilvie

    mcogilvie Registered

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    The first thing you have to do is recognize, for better or worse, is that this is not a problem in the sense that a flat tire is a problem. It is a problem created by your own standards and preferences. There’s nothing inherently good or bad in that. Because you do have searchable scans of these documents, you have a few choices:
    1j trash the paper originals. You have electronic copies.
    2) keep the originals, filed individually.
    3j something in between. For example, throw each document into a single large file labled “Scanned 2019.” Or put them in a box, eventually moved to archival storage.
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2019
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  4. TesTeq

    TesTeq Registered

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    That's what I would do. Store paper chronologically.
     
  5. Gardener

    Gardener Registered

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    I can see a wide variety of ways you'd handle this, depending on how important this material is, how important it is that you can find it quickly, and so on. But in every scenario, I think you'd store the actual pieces of paper in groups.

    Possible choices:

    - A single folder for "Correspondence 2019", or, if there's a lot, "Correspondence January 2019", "Correspondence February 2019", and so on.
    - If most of your correspondence is with a small number of people, "Correspondence Jane 2019", "Correspondence Fred 2019", "Correspondence Other 2019".
    - Or maybe the correspondence groups by other categories: "Correspondence Catering 2019", "Correspondence Maintenance 2019", "Correspondence Other 2019"
    - Any or all of these could use binders or boxes instead of folders.
    - If you have a need to know exactly what's in there, at a glance, you could choose any of the grouping methods but also keep a correspondence log, something like:

    Sender -- Date -- Subject -- Folder
    Jane Smith -- January 12, 2019 -- Arrangements for June 2019 conference -- Correspondence January 2019
    Wilbur Jones -- Feburary 5, 2019 -- Arrangements for employee Christmas party - Correspondence February 2019
     
  6. skeeta

    skeeta Registered

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    Thanks all for your input.

    I think you all understood, but for the sake of others who have the same question later, I was referring to single sheets that do not form part of a greater set (such as statements or invoices, or product documentation/warranties, which can be single sheets that share common attributes, implying the logical groups).

    One could argue these types of documents would legitimately fall under 'Miscellaneous'.
    I had toyed with the idea of have a 'sub-filer' inside my cabinet in the form of an expand-a-file for filing such miscellaneous single sheets alphabetically (using the most appropriate search key word given the content of said sheet), alongside other files, each containing a set or collection of related documents (statements, bills, project etc. - warranting their own respective folder).

    I recall Dave stating in GTD that hard-copy documents should really be filed such that it can only be found in one of only about 3 file locations - based on the most relevant keywords to look for.
    E.g. C for "car", I for "insurance", M for "My-Insurance-Company-Name"

    Though, once I get good at scanning on a frequent basis (such that there are not too many documents in the "To-Scan" pile) then I see value in filing by "Date-Scanned" as the file Creation date would match the Scan Date in the filing cabinet...

    But then, there will always be documents on which OCR (Optical Character Recognition) fails, and the PDF cannot be found by a 'soft' keyword search in Windows...I suppose these are the corner cases that always threaten to 'clog up the gears'.

    If what I have said above sparks any other ideas, I'd be gad to hear it.

    Thanks again All.
     
  7. Cpu_Modern

    Cpu_Modern Registered

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    You might want to study the Noguchi filing system and have an instance of that running.
     
  8. David Parker

    David Parker GTD Connect

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    The Noguchi filing system may be a little overkill for your problem, but as you use hanging files (as we tend to in Europe and the UK), you could adopt one of its fundamental principles.

    This is that whenever you use a folder replace it at the front of the drawer, irrespective of where you took it from.

    As time goes on, your most used folders will be near the front, and the least used ones near to the back, saving you time finding a folder.

    Note that this doesn't work too well if your folders span more than one drawer. Also, anyone else using the folders may have trouble finding a folder if it's one they don't use as often as you.
     
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2019
  9. aderoy

    aderoy Registered

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    There is/was a program called Paper Tiger that may offer a solution for some, just checked it is still available both as desktop or cloud. Basic idea can be done via spreadsheet or minimal database. Was used heavily at a school system I worked at back in the 80's.

    There is a German filing system to capture/index random items for retrieval called "Zettelkasten". Doing a bit of 'research' to see if the system could be used for myself.

    Document retrieval systems are many for electronic, yet linking between the physical item with some index, tag, keyword for quick easy storage and retrieval from a folder/drawer/room is in a state of flux. Handling a few hundred items to hundred of thousands items that may cross 2,3,4 decades is fun.
     
  10. Josh Mitchell

    Josh Mitchell Registered

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    Hi skeeta!

    This may not be the response you're looking for but I'll offer it anyway.

    I love paper but I am also pretty tech savvy. My system currently includes a paper planner (using and loving Michael Hyatt's Full Focus Planner) but I also use Todoist, Fantastical, and Evernote for my lists and reference. It works for me.

    I realized several years ago that I do my best thinking on paper. So I actually have written in a "How I Best Work" checklist "First think on paper, then move to the screen" to remind my how much better my work is when I plan stuff out on a page, rather than a word processing document.

    The biggest issue with that is retrieval. Paper is good and all, but when I need to find exactly why I wrote, I need a system that allows me to access my handwritten notes quickly. I was able to solve that problem with Evernote's handwriting search feature. I can scan a piece of paper with my phone, save to Evernote, and then search for anything I hand-wrote. Works perfectly... for me. I think OneNote does this too?

    However, I still like to sometimes go back and see the "original paper." So sometimes, I end up with "one page" reference material that does not fit into a larger category (just like what you're talking about, I think). I actually create a typeset label for whatever that item is and go ahead and file it alphabetically in my file system. Yup - even if it's just one piece of paper. So what? I need to be able to find it!

    What happens more often than not is because I have a placeholder for that paper in my file cabinet, my mind subconsciously knows there's a place for similar items like that the next time I come across something similar. If the label needs to be updated, I know I can do that, too.

    So... maybe if you tried creating a "solo folder" it could eventually grow into something larger?

    If your concerned about space, how many drawers of paper reference do you currently have? Are you forcing yourself to work with too few drawers? Do you like the cabinets, folders, and labeler you're using? Is there something else in the chain that is causing you to resist other than space?

    I started several years ago with 2 drawers. Then I realized I needed another. Then another. I am up to 5. To be honest, I don't think I will get larger than 5 drawers. That's my perfect number. I am pretty good about clearing these out every 6 months to a year and placing boring stuff in a Banker's Box.

    I also create 1 1/2 inch binders of research material when I notice a folder getting too thick. For instance, I like to print cool articles for reference and place in a themed folder. Many of these start off with only one page in them. Eventually, my file cabinet is no longer the appropriate place for this -- so I'll move the stuff to a research binder and place it on my bookcase. Again, this works for me...
     

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