Posted by: zhak39 | June 30, 2009

The Mystic Art of Document Management

Grasshopper,

There are many roads toward information harmony.  It is essential to achieve clarity of purpose in order to lighten your path.

What is your goal? You may wish to be free of the crushing, suffocating weight of random scattering of paper.  You may want to be able to find specific information without being swept into the morass of miscellany.  Perhaps you wish for balance of archive and working information in efficient reach.

It is achievable.

Choose your path.  Are you an ascetic Zen master?  The shredder is your best friend.  Let go all those pieces of paper with strange marks on them.  Enjoy the incredible lightness of being (unemployed).  Do you lean toward Krishna bliss?  Set aside a room with unsorted piles to dig through with the joy in your heart of the fearless explorer (make sure there is a door that can be shut and no breezes).  Are you comfortable with the Middle Way?  This is the Tao of Filing.

The Tao is a balanced approach.   It saves not everything; it shreds not to nothingness.  It is based on detachment from sentimentality but accepts the necessity for attachment to some artifacts.  It loves the alphabet.

First:  simplify.  Reduce your overall burden using the basis of essential vs. non-essential.  Let go of rough drafts, duplicates, hand written notes.  If this is problematic, put all those questionables in a big box and if you don’t touch that box for 6 months then sacrifice the box through fire.

Second: sort.  Imagine there are three options in life and use this mantra to sort your documents—scan, shred, save.   Scan anything that can possibly be useful in the long term and store the files in at least two places (computer and back up).  Make up a naming system that makes sense to you.  Shred hard copies whenever possible.  Be unsentimental, after all it is the information you need, the vessel is superficial.  Save only the essential, for instance final drafts of reports, contracts or agreements with original signatures.

Three: store.  Be minimal.  Be happy with the alphabet and manila folders.  All else is vanity.

If you wish to have color in your life leave only working documents in your sight line and put those in pretty color folders.  If you do not touch a folder for an arbitrarily set number of days (choose a number from 1 to 10) sacrifice it to appease the fire deity.  If you do not do so, the fire deity might come and get you.

Once you find balance in the middle way you will feel an incredible relief and lightness.  Come to the light and let me help you along the way in any way that I can.

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