Keeping Track of Everything
Blogger: Mary Keeley
It never fails that as autumn approaches I have the urge to get organized. Additional summer activities with family, a squeezed in vacation, prep and follow-up from the busy trade show and conference season have precipitated a file-later pile on my desk. Do you have one of those on your desk too? Let’s clean house today.
I’ve come to terms with the fact that there is no way to completely avoid this scenario from happening each summer, and that has relieved unnecessary guilt. After all, there still are only 24 hours in a day. Getting behind this time of year is inevitable. Yet, when I know my tracking systems and files aren’t up to date, that stack of loose ends haunts me and my mind doesn’t feel completely clear until I have taken the time to deal with it.
Chances are your summer schedule has left you in the same predicament. The interesting facts or ideas you picked up spontaneously, the ones you are holding onto in your memory bank, need to be recorded electronically or in your hard copy filing system. Items you researched for your WIP need to be inserted in their appropriate places before the information is lost or misfiled. Odds and ends on post-it notes need to be logged permanently.
Here are a few systems I’ve learned work for me, not only to minimize the pile but also that provide simple paths to their final filing destinations. Maybe you’ll find them useful examples to adapt for your own personalized systems.
My Daily Journals
I’m a hands-on, visual learner and processer of information. When I’m on the phone at my desk, I’ve found that in the time it takes to create a new document to record information or notes from a phone call, or to locate a specific electronic file to update, I can jot them down more completely in a daily journal as I’m listening and talking.
I also have a smaller version that I keep with me wherever I go. I used this one to record notes in my 20+ meetings at ICRS last month. These meetings were back-to-back, leaving no time in between for recall and catch-up. If I had used my iPad for taking notes, I would have missed recording important information while I was getting situated. I can’t tell you how many times I have been thankful for those hand-written notes. The information I’ve gone back to look for is all there, complete. Sometimes the old-fashioned method is still better.
When I fill a notebook, I write the beginning and ending dates on the front with a permanent marker and store it. Not all the pages need to be filed, but occasionally I want to search for something a few months back. After a year, I recycle it. I use notebooks that:
- are spiral bound — so they lay flat on my desk
- are smaller than 8 1/2 x 11 for my desk journal. The notebook I keep with me is smaller yet, but not so small that it becomes hard to write notes rapidly.
- have perforated pages — which allow for tearing them off without the rough spiral edges that can catch on other papers in a file folder
- are light weight
- preferably have an attached band to hold them closed — for those occasions when I slip in an extra note for attachment later.
Electronic Note Taking
The occasion when I find my iPad most efficient for note taking is during appointments with writers at conferences. At those times I am settled in to one location for an extended period of time. When a table is provided, it’s even more convenient. I use the Notes app and record each day’s meetings chronologically by writer’s name, appointment time, details of the conversation, and outcome. This app automatically saves the complete conference Note and also allows me to email it as a Word document to my computer.
I keep email folders, computer folders, and hard copy folders for every client. This might seem like overkill to you, but it’s really quite efficient. Emails are saved in the client’s email folder. Thus attachments also are saved as received. But I also save the attachment in the client’s computer folder and date that document to correspond to the date the email was received. That is an invaluable help when cross checking documents.
Since I love trees, I print hard copies as little as possible. But I do make hard copies of my clients’ signed contracts (and keep the electronic copies as well). Those and the hand-written journal notes from phone conversations are stored in my clients’ hard copy folders. It’s quick and easy to determine in which folder I will find the information I need at any given time.
Any organizational method requires applications that work best for you individually. Hopefully, the systems I have honed for myself will provide ideas you can use as you get organized. Efficient systems will allow you more time for writing this fall, before the next busy season arrives: the Christmas holidays.
Which of these systems do you see yourself adapting for your own use? What organizational system do you use that is especially efficient for writers? What organizing tools do you use that you could not do without?
Efficient organization leaves more time for writing. Click to Tweet.
Summer is over. It’s time to get organized and have more time for writing. Click to Tweet.
@marygkeeley lists her organizational systems. Personal adaptations might work well for you too. Click to Tweet.