Sunday, 28 September 2014

Executive dysfunction and dealing with paperwork

I'm trying to nail down my executive function issues at the moment.  As blogged about recently they've been a bit troublesome lately, and it really is time to find a system that works.  There are two main reasons this executive function business needs to be sorted out: my job, and having a life.

For a long time I was able to make up for the planning and organisation fails that come with executive dysfunction by just working harder.  But that doesn't really work in this new job.  There's quite a bit of planning and running long term projects.  I really like this gig and want to succeed at it.  That means, in the absence of the neurological infrastructure to handle the planning and organisational aspects, I have to find an external system to do it.

I'd also quite like to have a life at some point.  I'm not planning on finding a posse of girlfriends, and honestly don't think romance is a likely prospect any time soon either, but I have started doing a little bit of non-work stuff that involves being around other people and I'd really like that to continue.  That means having time and energy for it.  And having time and energy for important stuff and fun stuff means not wasting it on bullshit.

I'm working on some visual schedule and reminder tools, I'm starting to get my head around Gantt charts for work, and - getting to the point of this post at last - I'm getting my paperwork under control.

I've been carting this little filing box thing around since I inherited it from a former flatmate, but it's taken me a few attempts to find a filing system that works for me.  In the past they've been either too vague or too specific.  For instance at one point I had one folder called "work" which contained everything from my superannuation paperwork to long-finished contracts to jumbled out-of-order payslips.  Consequently when I needed something - my three most recent payslips for a rental application, for instance - I couldn't find them.  Or it went the other way and I ended up with separate folders for every one-off bit of freelancing, which even with the tiny amount of work I did quickly got out of control.

For the sake of clarity in the rest of this post: "folder" = wallet folder used for storing a specific type of paperwork.  "File" = open-sided blue thing with a label on it, which may contain one or several folders.

Over the weekend I attacked the filing box with some markers and washi tape and invested in a new set of folders, and the new system seems to be working.  There are about ten main file headings.  Most of them only have one folder in them, but a few have more - 'income' is split up into work and freelancing, and the tax file has separate folders for tax office paperwork and for receipts I'm hanging onto so I can claim them next year.  Most of the headings are fairly self explanatory - a 'car' one for my registration papers and insurance details, a 'health' one with details of my health fund and a couple of recent bits of medical paperwork, and one for the cat's vaccination and desexing papers.

This photo is really just to show off my washi-tape-and-scrapbooking-paper artistic stylings.  (I've re-used an old folder with quite a lot of writing on the front, so this is how I covered it up.)  Keeping track of manuals and bits of paperwork that come with my various gadgets has been a problem since I moved, because I no longer have space for a dedicated drawer for them all.  Now they've got their own file, with a pretty folder to hold the little ones so they don't fall out the open sides of the file and get lost. 

The heart shaped thingy is a post-it note, where I'm keeping a list of which gadgets' paperwork is in the folder.  At the moment it's only one thing, because the rest is still lost, but as I find it and put it in the folder I'll add it to the list so I can tell at a glance whether what I'm looking for is in there.

And that's part of the problem: this system's only as good as my ability to use it, to remember it exists and to put stuff away where it belongs.

That's why I also have a shallow A4-sized box in a prominent spot on the bench beside the filing box.  It's where I dump paperwork as it comes in - payslips, receipts, stuff to be shredded, any official-type letters that don't have to be dealt with straight away, anything I think I need but don't want to deal with or know what to do with right now.  It all stays there til the box is full, then I set some time aside to go through it all in one sitting, filing things away in their correct folders, putting the payslips in order (they now have their own clip to keep them together) and generally organising like a boss.

I find it easier to do organising and sorting tasks like that in one big session than to keep track of things as I go.  I know myself well enough to know that filing each individual bit of paper as it comes in just isn't going to happen.  But saving it up and tackling it in bigger chunks has worked for me before, and looks like it's going to work now.