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File the Future

When it comes to “future paperwork” like “I’m gonna need these bus tickets next Wednesday”, and I’m talking actual paper here, for most people who only have like three or four such paper pieces in a given month (usually), it’s enough to have a li’l basket or bag or folder or envelope or stack or tray for them and make a note of them in your normal calendar or reminder app, which is where you need to be checking anyway.

The Getting Things Done book recommends a system where you have an actual physical folder dedicated to every day, that you then also need to get in the habit of checking every day. This is great, but only worth it if you actually have a lot of physical paperwork incoming, which most people and professions in this digital era don’t. (I wanna say 99% don’t but I’d be pulling that number out of my hat since I don’t have actual stats. Not everyone has a digital profession, like if you, I don’t know, make pottery or something, but professions that deal with sorting a lot of incoming information usually are digital.)

That paper folder system was pretty clever, actually. You didn’t need 365 folders, you only needed 43. One for each month, and then thirty one for the days in a month, numbered 1 through 31. For stuff that’s less than a month from now, you put it in the numbered folders. For stuff that’s further away, you put it in that month’s folder, and then as that month arrives, you sort its contents out into the numbered folders along with what you’ve already filed there.

So say it’s the 29th of November right now. Your folders would look like, front to back:

29 30 D 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 J F M A M J J A S O N (You’d write out the full month names.)

You pour everything from the 29 folder, which represents November 29th, into your “in” tray, and stick the 29 folder in among your December folders and it now represents December 29th.

For digital, do not do this folder juggling. Having 365 folders is unreasonable & unnecessary on paper, folders are cheap on digital so it’s better to have one for each YYYY-MM-DD date. (And even then, that’s only if you’re somehow writing your own app for this instead of using one of the many, many readily available apps.)