Monday, November 21, 2005

Saving correspondence so you can actually find it again

We write letters, memos, and e-mails to others. Others write the same to us. Putting our hands on those pieces of correspondence later can be tough.

This week, we will look at correspondence you write. With a good filing system on your computer, there is little need for you to make a hard copy for yourself of correspondence you send to someone else. You will find exceptions where you need a hard copy when it is part of a file you are required to submit to someone else, but as a general rule, keep your copy in digital form. I say this for several reasons:

1. When you print a hard copy for yourself, you have yet another piece of paper to handle.

2. Files automatically sort themselves alphabetically on your computer.

3. Should you need to see files sorted by date created or modified, you can do so with the click of a mouse.

4. Retrieval is quicker. A click of the mouse is quicker than thumbing through the file drawer.

5. Should you forget exactly where you filed something, you can use the “find” command. Should you forget where you filed something in your metal filing cabinet is somewhat more cumbersome.

The first secret of being able to find correspondence you have written quickly is a combination of having a consistent method of naming documents and having a consistent way to file them. When I write a letter to someone, I name the file with the last name of the person, a hyphen, and several words descriptive of the subject. For example, the letter to Joe Smith regarding a donation he made to the playground fund is going to be titled “Smith—Playground Donation.” When I want to see that file, I don’t have to wonder whether I named it “Donation for Playground,” “Playground Donation,” “Letter to Joe Smith,” etc. The question I ask myself is, “To whom did I write the letter?” Answering that question tells me how I named the file.

The second secret to being able to find my correspondence is being consistent about where I file it. Inside My Documents is a folder entitled “Memos & Letters.” If I write correspondence, it’s going to go there. One thing to notice is that the letter I wrote to Joe Smith is automatically going to appear together with all of the other “Smith” letters.

What about correspondence others send to you? Next week, we will look at how to handle this task with paper correspondence. In a future week, we will look at correspondence that comes to you via e-mail.

Post a Comment