Wednesday, 2 January 2012

07:59 – Wow, that’s a relief. After going all of 2013 without a single science kit order, we finally got the first one yesterday evening.

And I have to remember that as of yesterday Barbara is in charge of the paperwork. I suspect that’ll work out a lot better. In the past, I’d issue a purchase order and put a printed copy in one of the random stacks of paper in my office. Then, when the order arrived, I’d check off the contents against the packing list. I’d put the packing list in some other random stack, because I wouldn’t want to take the time to find the PO it went with. Then, when the invoice arrived, I’d pay it and put the paid invoice in yet another stack. Or maybe in one of the original stacks. Barbara will keep things much more organized. She uses these things called “file folders”. I did order a bunch of those originally, but I’ve never really figured out how to use them.


19 thoughts on “Wednesday, 2 January 2012”

  1. Some people used to chortle at the array of clipboards on the wall of my office. But every one had a label on the wall above it, and I could find any of several species of paperwork in an instant.

  2. Yeah, we gotta get better organized up here, too, just for routine household stuff; and those “file folders” sound like the way to go. Clipboards, too. Soon we’ll all be back in 1900 anyway…

  3. Why are you printing out a paper copy for your records? Are you required to keep paper records for tax purposes?

    After 30 years in printing in an administrative capacity, I’m pretty much an expert on organizing stacks of 8 1/2″x11″, though a librarian should be able to kick my organizing butt. Clipboards and those newfangled folders do help keep track of paper on your desk. They work somewhat similarly to the “folders” on your computer. Note how they carefully cut each one to look similar to the computer icon?

    The first thing to do is stop hitting print, unless you just can’t avoid it. If you don’t print it, you don’t have to physically file it. Much easier to store electronically.

    Also, staying on top means never getting behind. If you must print, keep a set of folders on your desk and file them immediately upon processing them. Then you can file them permanently on weekly or monthly basis, depending upon the actual amount.

    Another quick filing tip is to use different colored paper for different functions. For instance, invoices should be white; POs could be green; packing slips canary; and kit instructions blue. That way you just sort and pile by color and you can quickly make sure that the appropriate paperwork is in the box upon packing with a quick visual check.

    At work I simply demanded that people stop giving me requests by paper, and start using forms they could email to me. This reduced paper coming onto my desk to a dribble. If I don’t get a physical copy, I don’t have to file a physical copy.

    At home, I’ve adopted a new (to me) way of organizing whatever scant paperwork I still get. I use file folders, but instead of marking each one for a specific function (insurance, taxes, phone), I now organize by month. Twelve folders per year. All June paperwork goes in June, and I keep the previous and the current months on my desk. I don’t try to organize within each folder, as there are never more than a dozen sheets of paper, mostly tax or insurance related, as I receive all but one bill by email now (stupid city water). At the end of the year everything goes into a 9×12 envelope and is marked with the year, and I re-use the file folders. At that time, I make the effort to organize by type and date, and I staple each group together before closing the envelope.

    However, most everything now come in electronically as a PDF, which I store on my computer using a similar system. I also scan everything I get in the mail that I need to file, which I do pretty much immediately upon opening it. I often don’t even read the paper I get, only the scanned version.

  4. You know, that reminds me of back 30 years ago, when I was working for a company that did billing and accounting software for law firms. I got a support call from a law firm that was desperate because the place they bought six-part carbon forms from had discontinued the six-part forms and now offered only five-part or fewer forms. The firm was wringing its hands over what they’d do when they ran out of the six-part forms, and wanted to know how much we’d charge to modify the software so they could run their bills twice, once to print on five-part forms and once to print a one-part form.

    I told them I was sure our programmers could do that, but first we should go through their procedures:

    They said the original went to the client, copy two to the client file, copy three to the client billing attorney, copy four to the matter file, and copy five to the matter attorney. “What about copy six?”, I asked them. “Oh, we throw that away.”

  5. Oh. Forms. I hate forms. I knew far too much about forms. People are downright weird about them, too. As your example shows so well. I’ve had similar experiences, and law firms seem to congregate weird people using weirder forms.

  6. I like those home filing tips, Mr. Grigg; thanks!

    Yeah, I try to keep a bunch of stuff on the computer but we just lost the Windows machine and the only thing I backed up from it was videos and photos; I’d just as soon have the file folders and paper in case the juice goes out or machine dies or a machine can’t read whatever backup media. The mileage will vary for a business or large organization, of course.

  7. You’re welcome. IIRC I got the monthly folder idea from Lifehacker.

    I simply don’t receive the paperwork anymore to file physically. With Dropbox and other Cloud services, backing up my scant data over numerous computers becomes trivial. I also use a Thermaltake BlacX HD dock, which allows me to hot swap regular internal drives, and makes backups fairly quick (mine is limited to USB 2.0) and easy. I’m thinking about buying a new BlacX, they now have one with two docks and eSata capable. This allows you to duplicate one HD to another without needing the computer, and also to simultaneously backup to two different HDs at the same time.

  8. My method is to use names—no categories, no time frames. When I worked in Minnesota, they were constantly sending me to organizational seminars, and there was always a good idea in each of them (rarely more). But I learned the most from a U of M professor, John Hoyt, who taught organizational skills in addition to his own area of expertise (which escapes me). He had a paper method of arranging meetings for busy people that was a precursor to the online calendars used for that today. He was leagues ahead of his time.

    Contrary to the inclinations of my library degreed mother and wife, I have only permitted names in our filing system. If it exists, it has a name, and everything is filed there. Lay the newest entry in the front of the folder. Never file within a file unless it is going to be presented to someone else. Time spent filing within a file is always 99% wasted time. Better to do it all at once, only if necessity demands.

    Hoyt’s system demanded going through every file you have once a year (he recommended a few folders a week). I do that at tax time, and remove everything for the year, putting it together with all tax forms, then filing that by year (the only exception to my name-only system). Every year, I throw out the folder that has become 5 years old. So my files are automatically culled by that system.

    Filing the moment one gets an item is a must, IMO, to not get behind. Set something aside, and it multiplies like rabbits. Deal with it completely, as soon as it comes in.

    Nothing wrong with the librarian category system, but it requires somebody trained to keep it working. As both my dad and I found out, if we were alone and needed something, and librarian wife was not there, we usually could not find it. As soon as they got home, they instantly put their fingers on it. That is a no-good system for people who do not have library degrees. Took a long time to retrain the librarians, but it was finally accomplished. Right down to the warranty and manual for my new shortwave radio, it has a name: Tecsun PL-398MP. That is on the folder. Even if I lost it and forgot its name, I would find it during my once-a-year culling process.

  9. Everything for work/personal that is digital is pdf’d and captured in DevonThink Pro for me. I have a small file for personal papers that are essential to have the original. I print a copy of all work paper as an analog backup after pdfing it. I have a standard “bankers box” that I tape the cover on. I cut a slot on one end big enough to put standard paper in. All biz receipts etc. go in the box. At the end of the year, I tape over the slot and the box goes on a shelf as a backup. I don’t bother organizing the analog copy. I just slide it into the box. I keep the digital files somewhat organized, but since they are OCR’d, I can search and get what I want in a jiffy.

  10. What do you use for OCR? I have not had good luck in the OCR realm and never really embraced it.

  11. DevonThink uses the ABBYY FineReader OCR engine. Any analog paper I scan with a ScanSnap goes right into DT and it’s OCR’d. I’ve been able to find anything I search for amongst a couple thousand items filed each year. That way I don’t spend much time at all categorizing.

  12. Thermaltake advertises only Mac and Windows. There are other OSes? 🙂

    Just kidding! I was still running Ubuntu 8 or 9ish when I first got mine. Worked fine.

    A quick Google search has come up with pages of people who have plugged and played under various linux OSes, including newer versions of Ubuntu. I use my BlacX on my Asus O!Play media player running whatever Linux version Asus uses for their OS, and have plugged it into both Xbox 360 (which will be Windows based) and Playstation 3 with no issues.

  13. Thanks, that’s what I figured; I have other external USB devices that have little stickers claiming they only work on M$ and Mac but they’re fine with any flavor of Linux. Good deal; they look like they’d be mighty useful at the OFD manse. And only fifty bucks, not bad.

    Rather than streaming video from my Ubuntu desktop like I was doing with the Windows box, I am just copying them to an external drive and then plugging that right into the Western Digital set-top box and Bob’s yer uncle!

  14. A week before Xmas, my daughter in Chicago got a stomach bug that laid her out for 4 days straight. Although we anticipated seeing each other, that did not happen, but 2 days after Xmas I got apparently the same bug. This is the 5th day, and the first I have been able to be back about my usual business. I am a little late on everything, including getting my 2013 calendar in place, which I am working on today.

    Last time I had any kind of bug that emptied out my digestive tract, was about 32 years ago. But my remedy is my own homemade potato soup, made with no dairy, but chicken bullion and just enough potato flakes to make it soupy. Saw a box of barley in the cabinet. Looked it over and it seemed okay. Took some in my hand and added it to the soup. After making this stuff twice a day for a couple days, I noticed a dead bug clinging to the edge of the barley box. Poured out the rest into a clear glass cup. Nothing in there that I could see, but I rinse the barley before dumping it into the soup now. A little bug protein never hurt anybody, and is considered a delicacy in some cultures.

    Meanwhile, the Mayo Clinic website says I am highly contagious for a week after my bowels return to normal (today). I cannot stay home that long, but will refrain from visiting family in the assisted living place until then.

  15. I actually have two of the BlacX single unit boxes. One is more or less permanently attached to the Asus O!Play for playing TV/Movies. One is semi-permanently attached to my main desktop for backup and use as a third drive.

    The only issue is the supposedly short life of SATA connections that I was reading about on Jeff Duntermann’s site (he just bought a new Thermaltake computer case with two BlacX slots built in), where he claims that internal SATA connections are only rated for 50 matings. I’ve got one drive that must get swapped out that many times in a couple of months! To date, not one of the six drives that get hot swapped have failed on me. YMMV. I have one drive that must be five or six years old, that I pulled from a past system that must have been swapped out a couple of hundred times.

  16. On a related subject, I shred no paper files.

    I tear them into several pieces, dump them into the dog pickup bucket lined with a plastic bag, and out to the landfill on Friday.

    If anybody wants me stuff that badly, they got it!

  17. I was converted to a shredder when I lived in Boston. I took some stuff out to the local dump (a landfill within the town we lived in) and as I was dumping stuff, checks started blowing by my feet. I picked one up, and it was our next door neighbor’s. They had apparently dumped a load of cancelled checks and there they were for all to see.

    After that, I have shredded everything that has any name, address or account info on it, using a crosscut shredder. Last thing I need is to make it easy for somebody to try and fight me over my own money.

    On the circuit board contact front, using the etchings on the printed circuits have LONG been a problem. When videotape machines at TV stations began using printed circuits back in the ’70’s, there were terrific problems with interfacings to the sockets. All circuit boards should have mating contacts that are separate from the etchings on the boards, IMO.

    If you do have problems along this line, the solution that worked all those many years ago, is to take the clean eraser of a pencil and erase the metal etchings. An insulating atmospheric coating often forms on that metal, preventing good contact. Contact cleaners do not fix the problem nearly as well as a pencil eraser. But it is bad design in the first place to use circuit board etchings as mating contacts.

  18. If you do have problems along this line, the solution that worked all those many years ago, is to take the clean eraser of a pencil and erase the metal etchings.

    Or consider using Stabilant-22 on all contact surfaces.

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