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My VIP meeting notebooks are a mess. How can I organize them?

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Question: “We hold monthly Board of Administrator meetings, and I have tried several ways to organize the packet information: using colored paper with tabs for each discussion section; color-coded tabs only for those items needing approval; binders; and report covers (with agenda on top and reports in order of agenda). I have been raked through the coals several times for not being organized because they have to flip through too much to find what they need. Any ideas on how I can better organize the material?”


It sounds like you're doing everything you can, but without actually looking at the reports, I cannot be sure. I would ask the person that's "raking you over the coals" for his or her suggestions.

We tried out a new set-up last year and everyone seems to love it. We use 3 ring binders. The binders are labeled (front view page) with the attendees name. The name is also placed on the spine. This way the binders are left after the meeting is over to be reused for the next meeting. People are asked to take any info they wish out of the binder, but please leave the binders. So far it has worked beautifully. The information is placed behind tabs and the agenda is typed to correlate with the tabs (I use tabs numbered 1 through 31). The agenda is printed on the right half of 11x14 paper. It is the last item in the binder. Once the tabs are filled then the agenda is placed in the binder. The agenda folds over all the info in the binder. That way the attendees open their agenda and it is visible for the entire meeting. They can easily look at an agenda item and see the tab number to find what information correlates to that item. I hope I have explained this well. Please feel free to email me if you need further explanation.

My response is the same as Karen's. It sounds like you have tried some very sound methods of organization. You as clearly not disorganized. If your managers don't like what you have done all you can do is ask them what it is they would like to see. Cathy's proposal is another good one, but I think asking the user for proposals is your first step.

All of the above sounds good to me. What about developing the notebooks as mentioned above, but having the very first page be a summary of what is inside. On this summary page, type the headings that will be found and a brief sentence or two of what will be covered in that particular section. Also, instead of including every last page of info about a topic, you can simply include the "must have" pages in each of the sections, with a disclaimer that more details are available and can be picked up at your desk, should they be interested in reviewing them. That way you are giving them a brief idea (summary page) of what is behind each section and you are telling them (with the disclaimer) that if what is included in each section isn't enough, just stop by your desk for more. I have a feeling that you will probably have no one or only one person ask for more paperwork. But, as mentioned earlier, start by asking those folks who are complaining exactly what they are looking for in the notebooks. Or, ask your supervisor what s/he thinks should be done. I did this once, and my boss told me that I was doing a good job with the binders and that he would talk to the complainers. One never knows!

I agree with some of the other posters: the best solution seems to be to ask the people who are unhappy with your methods what they would like to have changed. You could keep trying to guess what they want, but asking for specifics seems to be the best way to go.

When using binders for large amounts of material, two things help: 1) color coded tabs (TIP: coordinate the paper color with the tab color if you can afford it) and 2) label the tabs on BOTH sides so that no matter where the notebook is open, the user can find a topic by reading the tabs in either direction.

I use the BIG tabs too (with label font size to match) so they are easy to read at glance during the meeting. Definitely label BOTH sides. I like the idea of the fold-out "table of contents" as well. I wish I had thought of that for the last meeting with binders!

If you like the tab idea, Avery makes Laser Ink Jet Printable self-adhesive tabs (Item #16281) that I find very user-friendly.

If you like the tab idea, Avery makes Laser Ink Jet Printable self-adhesive tabs (Item #16281) that I find very user-friendly.

We collect all of the information to be reviewed at the meeting in an organized stack with the agenda on top, and hand number the pages in the lower right corner. The agenda is prepared to show the actual page numbers of the items. This packet is then dropped in the copier and stapled at the time of copying. This has worked for us for several years now. I've prepared this information for 16+ years using many of the methods mentioned so far, and this has been the most efficient for the Board, and for me.

For our meetings that require lots of information, we use packets for all attendees that are put together in a similar manner with agenda on front. This seems to be an effective method and has been used for many years. As stated it is very efficient and less time consuming.

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