Tuesday, November 21, 2006


As an exercise in accountability to each other my previous staff team had 'awkward' questions to ask each other. Are you taking your time off? Are you sticking to your hours? In my case the awkward question was, 'Have you done your filing?' Anticipating that the question might come up in staff meetings was enough to make sure I did it.

Anyway it is easier to put each piece of paper away in the right place immediately, once finished with. It is always then retrievable from the right place without having to search through a filing pile first. I used to teach this stuff to hard-presed ministers; embarrassing that I never learned it myself.

I'm hoping that blogging this (as a displacement exercise from filing) will be a sufficient nudge to send me scuttling like a rat to the pile of papers in the corner of the study and putting them away once I've finished. Maybes. Or it could end up a long post.

I am not struggling with time pressure at the moment, although I have plenty to do, but Wednesdays seem to be doing me in. Tomorrow was busy already before the doctor decided that the cyst operation had to happen then. Just now a phone call from an important pastoral contact, who I had promised to make time for this week, invited me over for tea on, you guessed it, Wednesday. Wednesdays I seem to spend picking up papers in meetings and notes of encounters and then dropping them all in a pile at the end of the day. Tuesdays are spent anticipating the demands of Wednesday; Thursdays are spent recovering from it and (not) filing it.

Tomorrow is a plethora of Ds - doctors, dentists, district church lunch, death (the pastoral visit is post-funeral) and Deanery Synod.

In my soon-to-be-filled filing cabinet you will find the Deanery Synod papers between Council Tax and Deviancy. Best not to ask.

Of course this is all a matter of being in a new place and getting the hang of the first few weeks. I wouldn't have it any other way and wouldn't want to be anyone else. Scuttling time.


Anonymous said...

I think it was you Steve that taught me never to have a group marked miscellaneous. I did that all the way through teaching and it worked.

St said...

Always encouraging to hear something you said was helpful, cheers.

dmk said...

that pile in the corner is (tried to make the 'is' italic, failed) the right place to put most of your pieces of paper. Filing is inefficient if done every time - why not just open that drawer once every 3 months, instead of several times a week?

A work colleague of mine used to file all correspondence in a single tray, and figured that if it was important, the person would ring to follow it up. Every few months he'd dump the contents of the tray and start again.

St said...

Ah, a great outbreak of 1970s management. Grouping tasks was seen as the key to efficiency but by the mid 1980s the number of employees who were off work due to bad backs caused by immobility had doubled.

And the filing pile is for stuff that you will need again - receipts for fridge-freezers and their guarantees, your passport, insurance cover note, the instructions for how to find the place you are preaching at on March 10th next year, minutes of the last standing committee meeting.

Lots of these are online now but a crowded Outlook in-box or sent items folder is the virtual equivalent of a full in tray or filing pile.

Filing piles can be used effectively by people with good memories only.

Sorry David. You touched a nerve.

dmk said...

My filing pile tends to be for stuff I won't need in a hurry, everything else goes into a time-series file, based on the next time I'll need it (1 file for each of the next 4 weeks, 1 more for next month, then quarterly files for the year). But being lazy I still just dump stuff on my desk, knowing that at some stage I'll get frustrated and need to clear it!

Anonymous said...

How do you get on with the management tool of 'Only touch each piece of paper once'?
Personally I find it impossible but I have got much better at making instant decisions about what needs to go straight into the bin. Probably because there's so much of it these days.

St said...

Four Ds:

Do it (then file it away)
Diary it (then file it until you do it)
Delegate it (give it to someone else to do it)
Dump it (bin)

Works for me, but the second one involves touching the paper twice.

Finker said...

Bad at filing? After that sermon book you showed me? My goodness it shocked me into sorting out my own.. I was shamed. And now you tell me that you're rubbish under that amazing facade of clinical organisation. I feel betrayed...