People seem to always inquire as to how to handle next action support materials. From simple letters and memos to large items that don’t fit in a file drawer, people are always debating how to handle the support material.
Here’s a quick peek into my system of three files that keep my support material organized:
File 1: The Action File
This is a simple alphabetical file, A – Z. Each letter gets its own hanging file and it’s kept with in arm’s reach, usually in my bottom left desk drawer. This file is reserved for support material for next actions that have no due date. I place the support material in my file. Even though I choose an appropriate letter under which to file it (e.g., “B” for Budget), I can actually put it under any lettered file. In my context lists I add a simple notation at the end of my To-Do to remind myself as to which file it’s in.
Example: Complete final draft of project budget (AF-B).
I can also store large items in any closet or shelf as long as I make the appropriate notation with the to-do.
Example: Complete painting (AF-Behind Bedroom Door)
In the first example above, the AF stands for Action File and the B indicates which letter the support material is in. My support material is filed under “B”. In the second example, the notation just tells me where the object that I need is stored.
File 2: The Tickler File
If a next action has a drop-dead due date, the support item is placed in a tickler file. The item is placed in the date when I’ll need it or, if lead time is needed, placed a few days ahead of the actual date. Each morning, I check my tickler file and my support item appears just when I need it.
File 3: The Reference Files
This is the long-term storage file for reference items for which no next actions are needed or the final resting place for short-term projects. It is also alphabetically sorted with each file being given a short key name. If a next action is complete but the support item still has value to me, I’ll file it in the reference files. Here is a photo of Jason Womack’s reference files.
When these three file systems are dove-tailed together, they create a strong support system that stores and tracks your support material.