How to organize when you hate to file

stacked high photo courtesy flickr user gadl

(MoneyWatch) Confession time: I have a big problem with filing cabinets. I know some people have elaborate systems of folders, alphabetized and neatly fitting in drawers, but when something goes into a file, it is dead to me. When something goes into a drawer in general, to me it as if it doesn't exist. I once put a pack of Sweet Tarts into my desk drawer, and then found them when I opened the drawer a month later. I'd been at the desk every day that month. I love Sweet Tarts! And yet their existence never crossed my mind.

That's why I know that various tricks people come up with to make you use filing systems -- like hiding $20 bills in the folders -- won't work for me.

But recently I started wondering if there was a way I could organize my office that would make me more effective at coming up with ideas. What sort of system could work for compiling fodder and not forgetting that something exists?

The system I came up with -- with some help from an organizer -- was to create a "soon" pile on my desk. The soon pile contains all items that I intend to do something with this week. I take a quick glance at this pile every day to see what I intend to do with it.

Then I have a "fodder" pile (which may eventually become an "idea desk") that I can look through when I want, but I should aim to look through at least once a week at a specific time. If there are long term things in the fodder pile, I can shove them to the bottom, and look through these less often.

Then I have two small files for documents: One for receipts and check stubs; one for "important" papers.

Everything else gets shoved in a closet. This is key. Trying to come up with a place for too much past stuff is just overwhelming.

So there are no alphabetized files, but I've pitched several more stories this week than I otherwise would have by working through my "fodder pile" and my "soon pile." So that counts as organization to me. How do you organize things if you hate to file?

Photo courtesy flickr user gadl

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