Thursday, January 21, 2010

Being Organized: Turning Scraps into Notes & Files

When I worked at a local university in the dean's office, I was known for my organizational skills throughout the campus. If someone wanted something completed, they could come to me and I would be able to assemble an event, program, service with great organization, speed and accuracy. Who knew years later I would be putting those same skills to use for my son Ben?

Over the last six years, we have met and talked with so many doctors, therapists, teachers, parents, insurance companies, agencies, organizations and respite workers that I could not keep them straight without the use of a fairly good organizational system. Below I outline the system that has worked well for me. Hopefully you may take some ideas from it and develop one that works for you.


 
Filing Crate
  • Purchase a crate that is designated solely for your child's information.
  • A portable crate may come in handy if you have to take it with you to a special meeting.
  • Make files for anything that you will receive in reference to your child: insurance documents, school information, IEP documents, doctor evaluations, medical records, each of the private therapies your child receives, Medicaid, Social Security, equipment suppliers, receipts for taxes - anything that will help you find something quickly and easily.
  • Keep the files in alphabetical order or some way that makes sense to you.
  • Place the crate in an easily accessible area. You may need to file weekly, depending on how much information comes in. if it is not easy, you will not do it and then things get misplaced.


Notebooks
  • Purchase a composite notebook. Place the current date, your name and contact information inside, although this notebook should never leave your home.
  • Tape all business cards directly into this notebook. I've tried stapling and then the notebook gets too bulky. Contact information will be at your fingertips for fax numbers, email addresses, mailing addresses and other vital information.
  • Write down "To Do" lists in this book with a date at the top. Helps you remember what you set out to do. Things that are important tend to get completed and things that aren't as important, go by the wayside. It is also a good way to keep track of what you have already finished and can be proud of.
  • Keep any notes on schools, doctors, schedules, camps, meetings, people, etc.
  • This notebook could last a few years. When you are finished, get another one in a different color and label it #2. The first will still be a reference. 
  • If you write a note on a Post-It or small piece of paper, tape it directly into the book.
  • I don't worry about keeping it neat, just keeping the info.
  • Flipping through the notebook to look for a contact, conversation or other information takes a lot less time than fishing through your purse, dresser drawer or desk for the small note you may have left somewhere.

Storage Files
  • Anything over one-year old not needed each year can be put in a plastic storage box with a cover and placed in a dry location, i.e. garage, basement or attic. I keep some of my son's medical records in the Filing Crate because I am often asked for them.
Computer/Phone Files
  • Doctor and therapist's phone numbers are kept in my contacts on my cell phone. In case I am late, I can quickly call to give them a heads up.
  • I try to send everything by email so I have a written confirmation of what everyone has said. I keep ALL emails. I NEVER delete an email; you never know when it may be useful.

Paper Rules to Live By (or Learn From My Mistakes):

  • Don't throw anything away. You may need it for something and better to keep it in the Storage Files and have it for later than to have it lost forever.
  • Always write notes when you talk with someone on the telephone - their name, date you called, next action step and who is responsible for that action.
  • There are certain documents you may need to give often. I keep a file called "Extra Copies" so that I do not have to find that document each time, copy it, put the original back, etc. I make a few copies of it for giving out to those who request it. Immunizations, medical history, doctor's evaluation, description of my son's condition and insurance card are some of those items.
  • Assume you will not remember anything about a conversation - write it all down in the notebook.
  • Take multiple business cards for referrals and personal use. You may lose one card, but harder to lose three!
  • Date everything.
Have fun with it too - okay to personalize your notebook with stickers, quotes, anything to make you want to keep it around.

1 comment:

  1. Ah, yes... paperwork. It took me years to figure out a system :P I have to say -- I love your composite notebook idea for business cards and such. I think I'll try it as a means for coralling my inexplicable post-it addiction :D

    ~Michelle @ 5MFSN

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