The brought forward system

This is how yesterday’s WIP looked after I did a quick 10-minute de-clutter session. The bottom tray is SHREDDING, the middle tray is FILING, and the top tray is TODAY’S WIP. You can also see my timer, perched on the all-in-one printer.

The folders have the project names on them twice on the spine, one the right way up, the other upside down. This is so I can see what it is when it’s in a suspension file and also when it’s sitting in my TODAY’S WIP tray.

Beneath the folders are 2 jellies (transparent folders). One is for book-keeping (it has my invoices and receipts in, for recording income and expenses), the other is TO DO.  The white peg has RECEIPTS stamped on it, the blue peg has SEND stamped on it. I have 3 other pegs, red, green and black, URGENT, FILE and TO DO. Perhaps the green one needs to be added to the FILING pile and the black one needs to be added to the TODAY’S WIP pile.

The box of pegs came from a lovely little shop in Holmfirth that has lots of interesting things on lots of interesting floors. I found them when I was with Shirley once, and she bought a box too. Carol will know where I mean, probably, and I must meet Carol there one day at our mutually favourite cafe.

If you think this is anal … I still use a brought forward (b/f) system, that old chestnut from the old days of office management before computers started to automate tasks and before most bills were paid by direct debit.

Once the clutter has been assigned, any odd pockets of time will be spent shredding or filing. I used to schedule these in but they became too much of a chore, so now I’m going to try doing them in 10-minute bursts – otherwise I shall be lost when all the de-cluttering is done. My next job is to get the suspended files in the 2 file drawers so the b/f system is up and running.

With apologies for suggesting some of us suck eggs, but for those that don’t already know …  a b/f system is a set of 44 suspension files in a single filing drawer. Linked suspension files are good, but very expensive. I use cheap, separate suspension files joined together by their tab holders. Thirty-one of the tabs are labelled 1 – 31, 12 of the tabs are labelled Jan – Dec, and one tab is labelled NEXT YEAR AND BEYOND.

Each slot has a jelly in so that the paperwork for that day or that month is all kept together. I use the b/f system for invitations, rail tickets, programmes, event flyers, greetings cards, and anything else that would normally get stapled or paper-clipped into my diary. I also use it for, say, date-specific material 6 months ahead that I’m querying or writing NOW. If it’s January then it must be July, that kind of thing.

Everything for January goes in the JANUARY jelly/slot; everything for February goes in the FEBRUARY jelly/slot, and so on. Then when that month comes around, it’s all “brought forward” into the corresponding numbered slots.

If there’s, say, an event I want to attend on 27 July, it goes in the JULY jelly/slot until July comes around. Then, when I’m bringing July forward, it gets “brought forward” into the slot labelled 27. The b/f system is checked either at the end of each working week or right at the very beginning of each working week so that I have some idea (apart from what’s already written in the diary) of what’s coming up and if I have to shift one thing if I want to attend something else. It’s checked every day too. And the monthly bring forward is scheduled into the diary.

Some say this system is old and archaic, but for me it gets things done and helps me remember things. And if it ain’t broke … I don’t use automated systems. I used to but it meant I was too reliant on my computer, and I hate to be too reliant on my computer. Another old-fashioned thing I do apart from keep a tight diary is always write the diary in pencil.

My other filing drawer is an alpha-filing drawer, and this is where everything else goes, including old projects until they get archived, which is why the project title is written the right way up on the folder too.

What old-fashioned things do you do to help you keep on top of things?

Yesterday was a relaxed but busy day, working mostly on the WIP in the top tray. I cleared a load of the annual, we agreed a few last-minute page changes, and I got the activity sections emailed over ahead of the storyline. I had a look at the new BCJ tutorial, refreshed my memory with the Writers’ Bureau assignment, and I pretty much did things as I went along, which included washing up my breakfast things, then my lunch things, and then my tea things right after I used them. I even found and added the green and black pegs to the WIP (FILE and TO DO).

Last night was my second ever trip to the Ramblers’ area meeting in Sheffield. Last time I went it was dark, wet, horrible, I was late, I got lost, the sat-nav took me the wrong way up a one-way street. At least last night it was dry and still daylight … but the sat-nav still took me up a bus-only lane. I think I’ve sussed an easier way to get to it now, but I hope I remember it when the next meeting comes around – in September.

There were representatives there from the Chesterfield 20s and 30s group who mentioned that they had some short walks going at the moment. I’m looking for short walks to take the puppy on when he gets here so I asked if they’d mind if a 40-something woman turned up with her dog. They were really nice about it and said sure. Their short walks are on alternate Wednesday evenings at the moment but in the winter they’re on a Saturday. I’m hoping by winter me and the pup will have both built our fitness up, but I might try to get to a couple of their summer walks meanwhile.

Today I have to shift the annual and, if I get around to it, I want to start proofing the next history book. Once these last 2 current jobs are out of the way I can relax into the new routine and get started on that rhythm. I can catch up on my 80k in 80 days (hey, did anyone say they had to be consecutive days?), and I can start fishing for work that I want to do. I wouldn’t mind another book to proof as that’s quite relaxing work. They allow up to 3 – 4 weeks to turn them around, but I said once I got into the swing of things I could probably do it in a fortnight. Depending on the length, I could probably turn 4 around in a fortnight.

I’m starting to feel content again. All is well with the world.


10 thoughts on “The brought forward system

  1. Simon Whaley 14 June 2011 / 10:19 am

    Don’t knock the Brought Forward system – you’re using it because it works. I spent 8 years working for Barclays Bank and one of the best things I learned whilst working with them was the Brought Forward filing system!

    I also use ‘Aide Memoire’ (checklists) a lot – again, something I was taught in the bank. For three years I was the Open/Close clerk, which meant I was the one responsible for opening accounts (and closing them) on the bank’s computer system. Because there were so many different types of accounts, each account type had it’s own Aide-Memoire, listing all the actions that I had to undertake in order to ensure the accounts were opened correctly. As a result, I now have my own Aide-Memoires for Articles, Short Stories, Novels, Non-Fiction Books, Regular Columns, Letters and Fillers. It may seem anal, but when I chase a payment, or submission, with an editor, I can quote dates, times and actions, and I know which one of us looks the most professional!


    • Diane 14 June 2011 / 10:42 am

      I like the sound of your “Aide Memoire”. I use to-do lists but nothing as sophisticated as that sounds. I might have to investigate … I’m all for whatever works, and if it keeps me organised as well that’s great.

      When I’m chasing for payment, when somebody really doesn’t want to pay (for whatever reason), I’m always amazed that even when you show them the audit trail they still deny all knowledge of whatever it is you’re saying. I think I may have to find out about this aide-memoire and show them that as well.


  2. devonellington 14 June 2011 / 2:24 pm

    It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of your system, as long as it works for YOU.

    Which reminds me, once company leaves in ten days, I’ll need to excavate my desk. I’m starting to have to send out search parties . . .


    • Diane 14 June 2011 / 2:35 pm

      I hate it when my desk gets cluttered. I’ve always worked at a clear desk and people often assumed I had nothing to do all day. They didn’t complain when they still got the right results on time, mind.


  3. Carol 14 June 2011 / 6:30 pm

    I’m a great fan of the old b/f system. This is what I was taught when I first went into admin. For me, it works because I need to see and handle things, they need to be ‘real’ not on a computer screen. If things are physically there you can’t ignore them, well you can but they stare back at you.
    I know the very shop you mean and I was in the same cafe on Sunday with friends after a good walk.
    Glad you’re feeling content, you really do sound it.


    • Diane 14 June 2011 / 6:40 pm

      It’s a terrible shop really, and one you shouldn’t go in with cash to spend because you’ll buy everything. 🙂


  4. Sarah Pearson 14 June 2011 / 8:01 pm

    I read this post through once and thought ‘huh’? Then I read it again and realised how much sense it made. I don’t need it because I don’t have much to organise but in the future,who knows?


    • Diane 14 June 2011 / 8:40 pm

      Yeah, sorry, I haven’t worked out yet how to put nice subheads in that are pleasing on the eye. I think a subhead or two may have made this one an easier read.


  5. Sarah Pearson 14 June 2011 / 9:08 pm

    No Diane, it wasn’t your post, it was my brain. I think it needs two goes round when it comes to words like system and order 🙂


    • Diane 15 June 2011 / 12:21 am

      It still could’ve benefitted from subheads. 😀


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