43 Folders


Buttons by Moxie, image used with permission! 


Whither thou, organization? sheesh. I have spent way too much time looking for lost bits of paper this week. And the bad news is, I KNOW what I have to do, in the studio and out of the studio, to keep that kind of personal crazymaking at a minimum. I spent a good part of today putting little bits in file folders, filing receipts, paying bills and, in general, doing all the little nitty gritty tasks of good business organization. Being a working artist means that I have to do these things, because I haven't figured out how to make enough money working as an artist to afford to pay someone else to do them. Maybe that wouldn't work anyway. When you work for someone else, a lot happens with the "support staff." God bless them. My support staff is me, Sunday afternoons at least twice a month -- like today.

One of the best tools is 43 folders, not Merlin Mann's blog, though I like that, too, and that blog name comes from the tool. 43 folders is part of Getting Things Done, an organizational tome and system by David Allen that has a cult-like following on the web and in real life too, apparently. The most useful part of it for me, (yes, I try to follow the other precepts, too, like "next actions")  is the use of a form of tickler files --the 43 folders. (Here's a series of Mann's interviews with Allen, if you want to listen.)

In a desktop open file box I have these 43 file folders, neatly labeled: Numbers 1 though 31, Months January through December. Whenever something crosses my email or my desk or my mail box or my errand list or my attention that belongs to a date, I file it in the folder with the date due or  in the date when I need to do the task. For example, I have a monthly writing deadline that involves collecting information, then compiling it on the first (usually) Tuesday of the month. When I take the notes and do the research, I file them into the next month's folder (ie December). Come December 1, I put the notes into the due-date folder.  Or, I get a doctor's orders for tests -- I put them in the dated folder or the month folder. Or, I have a show entry form deadline. I print them out from the email notice, put them in the correct month's folder, and when the first of the month comes, I put the information into the folder of the day when I will complete the application and do the work.

Here's the Wikipedia entry:

"One device that Allen suggests is the tickler file for organizing your paperwork (also known as the '43 folders'). Twelve folders are used to represent each month and an additional 31 folders are used to represent each day. The folders are arranged to help remind you of activities to be done that day. Each day you open to the numbered folder representing today's date. You take all the items out of the folder and put the empty folder into the next month. This sort of management allows you to file hardcopy reminders to yourself. For instance, if you had a concert on the 12th of the month, you would store the tickets in the 12th folder, and when the 12th came around, they would be there waiting for you."

This system really helps me keep track of all the odds and ends, the things that need to come in and out of the house and into the car, the materials that need to go with me to workshops and meetings. Now, I just have to get religious about using it again.  When I get behind, it's because I get scattered, try to keep things only on the computer (I am not very good at the paperless world!) or stuff papers into piles instead of keeping up with them at least once a week.

PS. I just signed up for another (yet another) free organizational tool-- Sandy, my own personal assistant. She is pretty cool. I even set a daily reminder for her to tell me to check my 43 folders!