Great Island Boatyard from the end of Orrs Cove. At low tide.

Flashback Friday: Tote Bags from Hell .. or How Do Live Aboards Handle Paperwork?

Does the mail pile up at your home or office? Do you sit right down and file things daily or weekly -- or do things stack up until you get to them? I'm a stacker and that doesn't work on a boat. This is a cautionary tale of paperwork, tote bags, and hosting an alert 87 year old sailor.

When we moved aboard, I was employed by a recruiting firm in town and left the boat every day to go to the office. We had one cupboard for our personal paperwork---a huge step down from a large oak roll top desk, an oak four door filing cabinet, and two custom file drawers EW built into our den. 

In other words, paper work on the boat was an issue from day one.

In January of 2005, I left my job and started Hire Well, LLC. a hiring consulting firm. I help small companies hire key personnel. I try to have a "paperless office", and find it is actually quite easy to work from my floating home. I have two cupboards over the dining/office area where I store files, the printer, paper, and other supplies. And I have tote bags.

Tote bags are a bad thing. Tote bags occur particularly in the summer when we want to go for a sail but I haven't dealt with the mail, balanced the checkbook, or filed. Sailing wins and papers go in a tote bag. In the tote bag they are "out of sight/out of mind" and there they stay. Papers are added or another tote bag is filled. 

 Three years ago I had five tote bags stuffed to the brim, crammed into the pilot berth. I called them the Tote Bags from Hell. They haunted me. They were the topic at a monthly business building meeting I attended. Yep, I was paying someone to tell me to get rid of the Tote Bags from Hell. I had to report my progress. It was embarrassing. 

Then I heard David Allen in an interview on our local public radio station. That day I bought his book, Getting Things Done, The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, and immediately began implementing his practices.  In one weekend I eliminated the tote bags and largely maintained that for two years. I highly recommend David Allen's methods, whether you work in a real office, a home office, or a floating office. 

But I have once again become a "Don't Bee."  

Between leaving the winter slip in early April, moving off board for two weeks, working on the boat, EW's surgery -- well stuff that had piled up beginning in February was now in two tote bags. Or in two large piles as I worked to eliminate the tote bags.

Now, that brings me to the 87 year old sailor. Remember the gentleman who recited Shakespeare to me? EW knew I wanted to meet him so last week he called from shore and told me to "Come up and meet Bud E." Then he paused, listened to Bud and said, "No, he wants to see the boat, we're coming down."

The Mess Bud Saw
 I had 5 minutes to pick up a bit before they arrived and didn't have time to stuff the piles into the tote bags. Bud was gracious, entertaining, and I was pleased to talk with him. We both ignored the piles. He told me about his sailing experience, his Navy experience, and his family's business. We discussed a CD learning program that he uses and he offered to send me the information so I gave him my mail and my email addresses. 

That afternoon, he kindly sent the information on the courses. 

Today he sent another email. Here it is in it's entirety:

Subject: David Allen paperwork system

Email: Sending by mail.  Best, Bud



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