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Rules of Retrieval


So back in the old days, almost every office
had a Mabel or a Stanley, a gal or a guy Friday whose primary job was to keep all the information
in a company organized. And at that time, if you needed to find a
file or piece of information all you had to do was walk down the hall or file room and
you have your hands on it in an instant. But that job unfortunately evaporated with
the arrival of the digital age, and now every worker is expected to organize their own information. No small task. Very intelligent people who are not otherwise
organized end up digging through piles and wasting time looking for information in order
to do their job. So you’re not going to turn everybody into
a master organizer, but there are a few simple rules that everybody can follow to create
a functional workspace. Let’s call them Mabel’s Rules of Retrieval. Rule #1: Never file anything under miscellaneous. Miscellaneous is the most tempting title because
you can do a quick clean up into it, but even five minutes later you don’t remember what
you meant by miscellaneous. So make sure every drawer and every folder
has a concrete, specific title that makes it easy to find based on how you’ll look for
it. Rule #2: File everything, no matter what its
stage of completion. Which means you need to keep your most frequently
used files and reference materials within arms reach of your desk chair so you can work
on them and if you take a pause, you can put them away and come back to them two days later
and know exactly where to find them. Don’t use piles as reminders of what you need
to do. Which leads us to Mabel’s Rule #3: Keep a master to-do
list on your desk that will prompt you in all the projects and things you need to do. And as long as you do that, you can file things
when you’re not using them, and have a clear desktop ready for you and easy to work with.

Glenn Chapman

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