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Any Bookkeepers using GTD?

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  • Any Bookkeepers using GTD?

    Question - I just finishing implementing my tickler file (1-31 and monthly as suggested) and just finished implementing Outlook to handle GTD workflow plan.

    As I was having a sleepless night thanks to my 12 yr old son waking me at 3:30 am with an earache and not being able to resume mind kicked into gear about integrating GTD with my paper flow for accounting.

    I'll try and pose my question as coherently as possible:

    I've been to the mailbox, I'm opening mail. I separate cheques from bills, filing the cheques into my bucket for them. The bills I receive I have been putting in a 'bills to be paid' hanging folder in my desk drawer. This hasn't been working very well because they are out of sight and therefore out of mind and there is no action associated with them other than "pay bills" on my task list in Outlook in a category called @Computer:Accounting. I'm a natural procrastinator and therefore sometimes bills are paid late. This, of course, I want to avoid.

    I use Simply Accounting for my company and ideally I want to pay bills using the payments module on this software as opposed to tickling them and writing a manual cheque on a certain date. For this to happen, of course, the bills need to be posted as payable. So I guess the simple question is:

    a) Would you put the bills in the inbox for the day and post them as an under 2 min. task after which they could be filed away in the Vendor file (with perhaps the payment stub in a holding file/waiting for file)?

    b) Or would you put them in a "to post" file and set a recurring task in Outlook to post weekly?

    My biggest paper backlog is accounting stuff. It's partly because I have another full-time contract that I'm responsible for (publishing a paper which includes its own set of accounting functions plus admin. stuff) so more often than not, our own bookkeeping gets back burnered. I want this to stop and I believe GTD is the system to move that into reality not and off the wish list.

    Second question on the same topic: If anybody out there uses Quicken for personal finances, I'm curious about how you implement GTD into this workflow (i.e. post debit receipts and cheques as you create them or hold them for a posting day). That's another area where I need to keep up with posting otherwise it's months of backlog and an insurmountable task (or so it feels anyway).

    Any suggestions welcome.


  • #2
    I don't know that there is a right or wrong answer to your question, other than to say you need to develop a reliable, functional system. For me, GTD simply provides a structural context around which I build the system that works for me. There are some commonalities, but the exact workings of that system are dependent upon what works for each individual in their unique circumstances.

    With bill payment, for example, it really doesn't matter whether you file the bills in the tickler file (assuming there's money in the bank to pay the bills when they come back up), whether you post them in a payables module in Simply Accounting, Quicken, QuickBooks,etc, or whether you enter them in a reminder spreadsheet. What you don't want to do is leave them in a HUH stack or have to shuffle through the whole set every time you are ready to pay a single bill.

    The key is that you implement a system that you TRUST completely and that you FOLLOW consistently; a system which allows nothing to fall through the cracks. The exact structure of that system is based on what you are most comfortable with and will actually use, provided it accomplishes the aforementioned goals.


    • #3
      Bookkeeping with GTD

      I'm beginning to implement GTD and I'm finding that I need to read the book several times as I pick up new answers to my questions each time I read it. I find it integrates well with my accounting system. I think DA uses the exact situation you're addressing in his tickler file section. You really do need to use the tickler file (I use the Smead Everyday file, which makes the Tickler file much more compact and even portable, and can be kept on my desktop and taken with me if necessary). Bills should be filed a few days prior to the due date so there's plenty of time for them to arrive at the vendor's and be posted, allowing for mail and office processing. So if a bill's due on the 15th, I file it for the 10th. This has saved me a ton of late fees.

      I use QuickBooks and I pay my taxes on the cash basis, so I don't bother with entering bills into Accounts Payable. I don't have that many, and I feel it's a wasteful duplication for me to enter the bill and then have to pay the bill--takes up twice as much time. Since I don't have that many payables I don't have the need to print out reports of payables. I just write a check to the vendor when I know I can't procrastinate any longer (thanks to the Tickler file), or I go to their website to post an on-line payment.

      I definitely wouldn't put an unpaid bill into the vendor file. I keep all unpaid bills in the tickler file since I have so few. If my clients have a greater volume and need to know what their payables are in order to plan their cash flow, they enter the bills into the Accounts Payable module of QuickBooks as they arrive in the mail, (QuickBooks has a good reminder function and will give you a reminder about bills to be paid, checks to be deposited, and invoices due) and from there I have them keep an Unpaid Bills file, depending on volume/level of activity either a small expandable file folder about a half inch thick, or an expandable alpha file, or even a whole file drawer with A through Z file folders, and whichever solution they use, they always keep the unpaid bills in the Unpaid Bills file, and when the bills are paid they then move the bills to the vendor files. This keeps paid vs unpaid bills separated, the paid bills always have the check voucher or a copy of the check stapled to them, and if there are ever any questions about the bill or the payment it's easy to research. Also, having the check or voucher stapled to the bill makes an unpaid bill easy to distinguish from a paid bill.

      As for receipts (customer or client payments) for a small business, service business or consultant, I have them print out a copy of the invoice for an open invoice file. This file will always have a copy of that invoice until it is paid, so it is helpful to look through it every week or month (depending on activity), and see who still owes you money and for how long. When the customer pays we get the invoice (if it's paid only in part we make a note on the invoice of the payment, check number and date of receipt/deposit, and leave the invoice in the open invoice file). If paid in full, we staple the check stub (or voucher or I've heard it called a skirt) and/or a photocopy of the check itself and the invoice to a copy of our deposit slip (I try to get my clients to use three-part deposit slips) or a print-out from QuickBooks of that deposit report and we staple the bank deposit receipt to the front. So we have the entire transaction history tied to the deposit--the invoice, the deposit slip, and the deposit receipt. If there are ever questions about the payment we can look up the invoice and see when the payment was deposited and we can go to the paperwork for that deposit --we file the deposits by date--and we can find copies of all the documentation for that invoice. If there are payments from several different customers deposited on the same date, we can either group them together in one deposit, with all the paperwork stapled into one packet, or we can deposit them separately. I like to do separate deposits for myself because I don't have a high volume of activity, but people who do have a high volume generally make just one deposit with lots of payments--it works fine either way.

      I hate using so much paper to make copies of invoices and checks, but I've found over time that in business you need certain things, and efficiency in dealing with A/R and A/P is really important and has to take a very high priority. I've seen people struggle with this because it seems wasteful at first, but eventually everyone sees the benefit and gets with the program. It's much better to have this in place before you have a problem rather than to have a problem and waste time you could be using to make money just to research a bookkeeping issue. Bookkeeping doesn't make money for the business person (except accountants like me)--it is overhead and drains resources and reduces your profit when it doesn't work efficiently.

      Also, I've never had this problem myself, but if a client's check doesn't clear due to insufficient funds, some banks return the check to the maker rather than the depositor, and then the depositor has no recourse but to invoice the customer again. If you have a copy of the customer's check that is at least a signed acknowledgement that they owe you the money if you have to go to court to get payment. If I'm wrong about this I'd appreciate someone correcting me.

      One thing I have noticed with all my clients is that you must set aside a time for your bookkeeping. Don't let it pile up until it's a disaster. You have to make an appointment with yourself, like you do with the weekly review, and that appointment has to have the highest priority. Whether you have to do it every day, or twice a week, or just once a week, set that time aside and keep it free for your bookkeeping. Otherwise it gets out of control and it's really hard to get current again, and you won't know what your checking account balance actually is.


      • #4
        I have spent a lot of time dwelling on the applicability of GTD to the actual process of accounting and bookkeeping (As well as being an auditor, I am responsible for the bookkeeping function in our practice).

        After a lot of thought, I am leaning towards the opinion that bookkeeping, when done properly, does not need any additional holding areas that GTD might suggest. The main thing is to schedule when you do what you do.

        Me, I let invoices etc accumulate in a separate tray. I keep an eye out for quiet morning, and when one arrives, I just power through the whole tray to get me back up to date. This can be as little as once a month.

        When my bookkeeping is up to date, all the information and functionality I need are there on the screen: list of suppliers to pay; bi-monthly totals of VAT (sales tax) for entering on bi-monthly return; bank balance; while on the shelf I will have a well ordered file of suppliers’ invoices.

        I use Sage bookkeeping package (also know as Apex, and is or used to be closes connected with Finax and Solution 6). This can give me any type of printed report I might require.

        So, basically, if I keep it up to date, my bookkeeping system is completely self-contained.


        • #5
          Some interesting responses. Good stuff to ponder.

          Busydave, I agree that when the accounting system is up-to-date there are reminders in the software that should give the needed prompts.

          I'm leaning towards posting bills as they arrive and then tickling them as a secondary reminder a few days ahead. That should avoid anything falling through the cracks.

          As for the open A/R invoices being copied, I can see that that would be a good practice if the one following up was one step removed from the accounting function. Fortunately, I'm the input person as well as the collection person so I'm solely responsible for following up on unpaid A/R accounts. As I use my accounting package to generate invoices they are always current. When I receive a payment, I post it directly into Simply Accounting and print out a G/L of undeposited funds and take that to the bank with the deposit slip. The teller stamps a copy confirming the date of the deposit and then a copy of the deposit slip is attached to the G/L printout. From there I journal a debit to the bank and a credit to the undeposited funds and file the deposit slip away. That works perfectly for me and contains all the needed info from the client, including their cheque number, date of deposit, etc. It also has the J/E number so I can open the program, if needed and open the J/E to see which invoice it applied to if that's ever a question. I can also print out a Customer Aged Summary or Detail very easily if there are problem accounts.

          I shudder at the thought of any more photocopies than that because I would surely needed an assistant to help with the volume and it simply isn't in the budget.

          Thank you everyone for your thoughts. I appreciate the array of advice. Somewhere in what you've all shared is my perfect scenario!



          • #6
            On the personal side, I use Quicken software on my computer and more recently added Pocket Quicken to my Palm. With Pocket Quicken, I can add my expenses as they occur (e.g., right after I fill my gas tank) instead of letting receipts pile up throughout the week. I even opened a cash account so I can track all of my cash expenditures (which is a little scary when you realize how much you are spending on miscellaneous stuff...). For bills, if I have a few minutes, I pay them as they come in even if it means paying them a little early. Additionally, I usually schedule two Saturdays per month to pay bills. I generally put my bills in a bills to pay folder, but I also have the option of putting them into the tickler folder for the next Saturday bill-paying session. I find that the bills to pay folder works a little better because I can grab it easily if I want to pay bills on a weekday, and when I file them I don't have to figure out which date is my next Saturday for paying bills.