I am an enthusiastic member of a couple of quasi-professional organisations that reflect my varied interests, and I am grateful to those dedicated individuals who spend their time diligently managing the various activities that these bodies provide. And in two of those, the ‘main men’ have a bad habit that amuses me.
The individuals concerned turn up at meeting after meeting with a formal looking briefcase. Weather-beaten, obviously well-used and of some sentimental value, these people carry bags. (Gotcha!) Seriously, these people carry cases that are weather-beaten, obviously well-used and of some sentimental value – or they’d have bought new ones.
Then they open the bag and what can I see?
Piles of paper. Not files, but piles.
During the subsequent meeting these individuals will either raise important issues, or they will be called upon to assist other members with the provision of material facts – and the search begins. “Where did I put that ………” followed by “It’s in here somewhere…”
(I frequently see them read relevant facts off a sheet of paper, the reverse of which is a gas bill, random note or page torn from a magazine. There is some serious recycling going on, here.)
Is that your method? Do you live with piles of unorganised paper? Is your work drawer, filing cabinet or portable form-carrying organiser, er, disorganised? Do you find yourself having to deeply delve every time you want something? And while having to do that drives you nuts, do you persist, presumably in the hope that this material will magically sort itself out?
Take a tip.
The organisation has lots and lots of stationery that is specifically purchased in order for officers and staff to organise its paperwork. Use it.
Those foolscap sized manila folders that are purchased without any thought having been given to the fact that the drawers they provide officers and staff are A4 – well, they can be cut to size. When you have a new project, grab such a folder, label it as best you can, and keep project related paperwork in that one place. Bigger projects, get a lever arch file and some divider pages, and organise things into evidence, admin, disclosure, and any other subset that comes up.
Do the same with computer ‘stuff’. Keep it properly filed into separate folders, and stop saving things with poor file names.
The time you save by properly administering and managing your paperwork – and the emotional upset you will prevent – will be very noticeable. Not to mention preventing the embarrassment of having to revisit an important witness and asking them if they wouldn’t mind making that lost statement again.
I realise that a lot of ‘paperwork’ is directly created on a computer, these days. But let’s be upfront about this, a lot of it isn’t.
Look, I hated working major investigations on HOLMES, but the one thing that the Major Incident Room does best is manage its paperwork. Their methodology, adapted for the individual, works marvels for efficiency. I cover it in depth in my book Police Time Management, so if you want more then consider that a relatively inexpensive investment.
It’s already paperback bound so you won’t lose it. I promise.