Destroy later

I’m a process person. Recently, I was asked if I thought some course-material would be better if it included more process instruction; more step-by-step processes on how to do things. I pointed out that I’ve never been very successful simply handing people a process. I think it’s easier to teach people how to think about processes as a way to solve problems once. When the problem appears again, the earlier thinking—in the form of creating and refining a process—pays off.

Anyway. Today I’m going to do the exact opposite and try to hand you a process. :)

You have “sensitive” papers— things you need to keep around for a while, but probably not, you know, forever.

You have a good shredder— omg if you don’t own a good shredder, stop here and buy a good cross-shredder.

And therefore you have tension between wanting to remember to safely destroy “sensitive” papers— and not wanting to destroy them before you are sure you’re done with them.

  1. Create a set of “destroy later” file-folders. Find a place to keep them where they won’t be randomly disturbed. (On a shelf out of the way, in your safe, whatever.)
  2. Grab some file folders. If you want to keep things for 3 months, you need four, file folders. If you want to keep things for 6 months, you need 7 folders.
  3. Every time you have a “sensitive” paper, place it into the topmost/frontmost folder.
  4. Each month, take the topmost/frontmost folder full of “sensitive” stuff and move it to the back/bottom.
  5. Destroy the contents of the folder which is the new topmost/frontmost.

Revel in that tension evaporating, knowing all things will be appropriately destroyed later.


Postscript: This is a “tickler file” system. But instead of the usual reminders in a tickler system, we’re reminder ourselves to shred the contents of the tickler system.