Often, critical information enters a capture point that needs to be stored for later use. It may come as part of a time demand, such as a note placed on our desk that says “Call Suzie tomorrow at 555-1616.” This particular note has both a time demand plus a critical piece of information.
When critical information is entered into a capture point, and is likely to be needed at some future time, it needs to be stored in an effective way.
Nothing should ever be stored in one’s personal memory , unless it is first stored elsewhere. Even then, one’s personal memory should be used only rarely as recent research is showing that the mind is better used for processing and thinking, rather than storing.
- By far the most effective method of storage is in electronic form, and users should be steadily migrating towards using less paper and more bits and bytes. As they use more electronic means, they should also be using more portable devices, to enable data to be available as often as possible.
- As more data is stored electronically, it should be subject to ever improving back-up mechanisms. Information on paper should also be backed up electronically, and an electronic scanner is a key tool for all serious professionals.
- Paper originals that need to be kept in the original form should be stored in fireproof and otherwise indestructible vaults.
- Where users are not comfortable with electronic data, paper should be stored in easy to access file folders.
- Where digital conversion is not possible, paper is put away in easy to access folders that are connected to time demands as recorded in either lists or scheduled activities.
Information should never be stored permanently or for long periods at capture points.
- A Novice or White Belt has either no information or too much information. In either case, it is mostly inaccessible and unavailable at the moment of need. Life at this level is characterised by mad scrambles to find information when it is needed. At this level, incoming information is kept in clumps, and often a capture point is abused, and allowed to become a point of storage.
- A Yellow Belt has started to manage incoming paper information in folders, but is still relying on piles. There is almost no electronic conversion occurring from paper information to electronic information. The folders being used are poorly managed. There is no proper numbering system, and the vast number of folders that exist mean that multiple folders may have the same name. Finding information is largely a matter of memory. When, for example a time demand such as a wedding comes up, the questions asked include: Did I store the invitations in a folder? Which folder did I store them in? How can I find the folder among all the others I possess?
- At the level of an Orange Belt, file folders are being used in an efficient manner. There is very limited conversion from paper to electronic formats occurring. Physical file folders that are used to store paper items are regularly cleaned out and updated, or scanned for digital storage. Each folder has a unique name, and the folders are indexed in a central location for easy searches. (In other words, there is a current list of folders always available.)There are 2 kinds of folders for paper items:
- temporary folders that are holding items for later use by time demands on lists or schedules.
- permanent folders that are holding items for permanent or long-term storage, such as legal or tax documents.
Email is treated like information and never stored in an email in-box, but instead is stored in folders.When an item is linked to a time-demand, an Orange Belt user goes the extra step and actually makes a connection between an item in a schedule or an item in a list. For example, on a list of “Items To Do on Friday” there is the following entry:
— cricket match: (tickets in “Friday” folder)
Or, in a schedule of appointments on Friday in Outlook:
Friday all day: cricket match: ( see tickets in file: “Friday tickets”)
- A Green Belt is committed to using paper as infrequently as possible. They use e-bills and e-banking as often as possible. They scan incoming paper religiously. They know how to use tools such as Microsoft office, Google Desktop and others to find information stored electronically as quickly as they can. The information they need can be found quickly, and they use some form of portable storage device (like a PDA) to ensure that critical information is never far away from their fingertips. They have very efficient systems of backing up information and never use their memory to try to recall critical information.