By STEVE BREWER
Scripps Howard News Service
June 22, 2005
When you work at home you must be able to retrieve information without a lot of wasted time and effort. Every minute counts. And if you work alone, you have no one else to blame when stuff goes missing.
A proper filing system not only keeps data handy, it also serves as a "track record" of your home-based business, from its optimistic launch to its eventual, unsurprising demise. Use file labels that are easy to change so you can chart the bathtub-drain geometry of this downward spiral.
The best way to keep files organized is to use a simple alphabetical system. Here are some suggestions for labeling folder tabs:
Assets - Usually a very slim file.
Business cards - Collect these from everyone you meet while "networking." They make dandy toothpicks. "B" also stands for "Bankruptcy," but that comes later.
Computer - Outdated manuals, voided warranties and backup disks kept in a folder stained with tears.
Debts - This file can grow so large it needs its own drawer.
Expenses - Everything the Internal Revenue Service might ever allow you to deduct, up to and including psychiatric treatment.
Financial plan - Typically an empty folder.
Goals - Can also be labeled "Goose chase." Or "Grasping at straws."
Health - Leave extra room for medical bills, etc. This file tends to grow as stress increases.
Investments - Or "Idiotic decisions."
Junk - A catchall, the last stop before the "round file."
Keepsakes - Awards, letters from satisfied clients, mementos of the good times. Thumb through this file whenever you're severely depressed.
Leases - Folder makes a giant sucking sound whenever it's opened.
Marketing plan - See "Wishful thinking."
Newsletters - These make good kindling.
Out of date - The letter "O" can also stand for "Overdue" or "Overly optimistic."
Profits - Hahahahaha.
Quacks - See "Health."
Resumes - It's smart to keep these handy and updated. You could be looking for a "real job" any minute now.
Supplies - "S" could stand for "Successes" or "Satisfaction," but "Supplies" are a sure thing.
Taxes - File should contain two business cards: one for accountant, one for bail bondsman.
Upcoming - Not a reference to your lunch but to pending events. Easy to change this one to "Useless" or "Unemployment benefits."
Vehicle - Leave room for a fat file because it will be a long time before you can replace your old beater.
Wishful thinking - Scratch out label and replace with "What was I thinking." Then "Wasted life." Then "Whiskey."
X - You never need this folder unless you go into xylophone sales. So it can be used as a place to hide overdue bills from your spouse.
Youth - Also see "M" for "Misspent" or "L" for "Lost."
Zippo - Contains the lighter you'll need to set your filing system ablaze.
Contact him at ABQBrewer(at)aol.com