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  • Help! Overwhelming amount of paper in files

    I am starting a position as the Executive Director of a small non-profit. I am coming in during a time of transition - and am taking over the positions (for right now) of about four different people. Needless to say there's a whole lot of files and paperwork there. I already went through all of the email and now all oft he addresses are going in to my account (and the inbox is empty! ). I feel good that that is done. I know I can't tackle the files now - I need to hit the ground running and just don't have the time for one, and also, I really don't know at this point what I'll need and what I won't. I'm thinking I should put it all somewhere - moderately accessible - and then as I need stuff, transfer it into my new filing system. Does that sound reasonable?

    Any suggestions are welcome - I feel drowned in this paper - probably about 12 file frawers full.

  • #2
    Yes, that sounds reasonable.

    Sometime in the near future, you might want to at least take a quick survey to see what's there. Donor records? Client records? The former director's collection of files he didn't want his wife to see? (eek!) Since they aren't your files, you won't know what time bombs might be ticking away until something blows up in your face.

    You also might want to define some limits so that the stuff you don't need doesn't become a sword hanging over your head. Maybe put a reminder in your tickler to review what's left after six months or so, with an eye to tossing as much as possible and moving the rest to long term storage.

    Good luck!

    Katherine

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    • #3
      Sounds reasonable

      Originally posted by Bottleblue View Post
      I'm thinking I should put it all somewhere - moderately accessible - and then as I need stuff, transfer it into my new filing system. Does that sound reasonable?

      Any suggestions are welcome - I feel drowned in this paper - probably about 12 file frawers full.
      That's quite a lot of "stuff". I hope the existing folders are at least labeled in a helpful way?

      My suggestion would be to use a different folder color for the "stuff" you've already massaged into your new system. Maybe a brighter, friendlier one, if you budget can accommodate that. The amount of friendlier folders will serve as a progress gauge - your approach to clean file by file is a wise one, scheduling just one big cleanup session (weekend?) might look discouraging and foster the procrastination of that "project".

      Then I'd put the existing folders into cardboxes that are easily accessible (so you can read the folder labels). That must easily be the biggest inbox I've ever seen Whenever you need one of the "old" folders, you clean it up, put the filtered contents into a new, friendly folder and put the folder back into the drawers. Or even better: you throw away the whole contents because you've found them outdated or otherwise obsolete.

      Please try to find somebody (anybody!) who is a bit familiar with the ordering scheme of your predecessors, they might have invaluable tips for you to speed up your cleanup work.

      Rolf
      Last edited by Rolf F. Katzenberger; 10-08-2007, 09:40 PM. Reason: Typo

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      • #4
        Nice suggestions!

        What would happen if you directed a staff member to spend a few hours (spread out over a week or two, if need be) reviewing these files, sorting them, and walking you through them for ten minutes?

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Brent View Post
          What would happen if you directed a staff member to spend a few hours (spread out over a week or two, if need be) reviewing these files, sorting them, and walking you through them for ten minutes?
          A very good advice.

          This would address more than one topic. You learn about the stuff and your staff. Furthermore you and they get used to delegation right from the beginning.

          Yours
          Alexander

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          • #6
            Thanks everyone. My staff is quite small - quite small - and since so many positions were eliminated, quite overworked - but good suggestions all! I'll keep plugging away!

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            • #7
              Good on ya!

              Good for you working in a nonprofit, especially one with a small staff. Applying GTD is a great way to maximize your efforts, which will make your donors happy. Regarding all those files, maybe they're mostly a someday/maybe. On any day your intuitive choice about next actions and projects may not include digging through old files. Could be that calling your top donors or schmoozing with volunteers is the best-leveraged use of your valuable time. Also, it may help to review your organizations tax-exempt purpose and talk with the board. That could help to clarify your 20-40,000 foot horizons and make daily choices easier.

              There's my 2 cents worth. A non-deductible contribution.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Rolf F. Katzenberger View Post
                My suggestion would be to use a different folder color for the "stuff" you've already massaged into your new system.
                That's a good idea. Without intending it I got the same effect when I started GTD because I started using a black on yellow labeller instead of hand writing labels on folders. So now I know anything with a yellow label is post GTD. You can also just paste labels over old hand writing if you are really keen to save money or paper.

                Michael

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Bottleblue View Post
                  I feel drowned in this paper - probably about 12 file frawers full.
                  I'd suggest a project called "old files files reviewed and purged".

                  The next action should be recurring task "spend one hour reviewing and purging".

                  I find purging files to be a task that can be done during teleconferences where I'm not a lead person .

                  - Don

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