Ah, documentation! It can feel annoying. It can feel unnecessary. It can feel overwhelming or even confusing! But honestly, it’s very empowering and very important for your sense of control over your finances, records, identity, passwords, online profiles, and memberships!
I was just listening to an report on NPR’s Morning Edition (highly recommend – I just donated this morning!). The story was describing how Bitcoin has dramatically increased value and is now worth a lot of money! The problem is, however, that early investors who did not have good documentation of their private keys (long strings of letters and numbers that help keep the finances secure and registered under your account identity) could not retrieve their Bitcoins. Thus they could not cash in on their investments. Essentially, these people just lost hundreds of thousands of dollars! That adds up fast! All because they forgot to write down one precious 50-some letter key.
The report’s conclusion? Back up your information manually (think pen and paper!).
I’ve been touting this idea since day one of grad school.
And who knows? Potentially in our futures it will be essential for us to manage our own private keys to our financial accounts – if Bitcoin becomes the primary currency. So before you lose your money (and your mind!), here are some tips to help you organize yourself:
- Taxes 2017
- Taxes 2018
- Identity Records
- Online Accounts & Passwords
- Diplomas & Certificates
- Business Expenses (Receipts)
- Confirmation Notices
- Bank Statements
- Photos, Mementos & Cards
- Any other folder name(s) you think might help you organize your things!
“No-brainer” products that I’ve curated for you specifically to help you accomplish this:
2. Set aside just 2 hours to collect all the documents you’ve had scattered throughout your apartment or house. Your sole task at this stage is to open all of your drawers, check your desk, look anywhere you open mail, even check bookshelves, your underwear drawer, and the space under your bed! Put EVERYTHING into one pile on the floor. This may be all you can get to today, but it’s still a HUGE step in the right direction.
3. Next, find 30 minutes to organize the giant pile into the folder categories you made. Think carefully about which items belong where, and why. If you need to, you can even write descriptions of the contents of each folder in your bullet journal or in a sheet of paper you will stick at the front of the hanging file! Label this description “Documentation README.” This is the same type of writing that large businesses and software companies use when they deliver a new product to the user. It provides the instructions the user needs to make sense of the product and get it to work as intended.
Here’s an example of the README file I made back when I was doing my internship at the University of North Texas:
I actually keep this squirreled away in my hanging file in a folder called “Research Documentation.”
4. Finally, go back through everything you’ve sorted and identify what items are no longer relevant. What items need to be purged? Think receipts older than 7 years, tax files older than 7 years, accounts you already deleted, etc. It’s a good idea to keep ALL of your business expenses, passwords (to active accounts), and identity records indefinitely. This task will probably take another hour or so. If you’d like to see helpful examples of what account documentation can look like, check out this article.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, set a timer to keep yourself accountable to these time limits. Remember that progress is more important than perfection and that a little step taken each day towards a goal adds up to big results – sooner, rather than later! Keep in mind WHY it’s important that you do this – you want to feel empowered and in control! This is what a #FemmeBoss does, and you are one too!
I’ve linked some complementary products that I think will also make managing your important documents more portable and flexible to the photos below:
These products have received very good reviews from Amazon and I genuinely think that they will add to your life, not to your clutter!
Let me know how this strategy worked for you? Did you try it? If you modified it, what did you do differently? Help a fellow #FemmeBoss out by leaving your process down in the comments!
Rozalyn Davis holds an M.S., Chemistry, from the University of California, Berkeley, and a B.S., Chemistry, from Purdue University. Her interests include women’s empowerment, health and wellness, and environmental sustainability.