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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Going Solo? Get the Box.

During orientation week as a freshman at the University of Maryland, I learned what has become one of my most valuable organization lessons; the box method. The box method ensures that your important documents will never get lost, as long as you place them in the box. Here is what I was told in 1984. Buy yourself a box large enough to hold a years worth of papers. As you get documents regarding your course work, for example class enrollment or drop confirmations, put them in the box. No need to file or order them. Just put them in the box. That way, they will always be there. If you need proof that you dropped a course, no need to panic. Your proof is in the box. Every year, you buy a new box, and put the old one on storage. It’s that easy. In my 4 years of college, I never lost anything! I still use the box method today for both my home and office.

Now that you’re on your own, a solo physician, you too will need to have easy and ready access to all of your important personal and professional documents; bills, receipts, tax information, etc. But your method of filing must be so easy to do that you can do it by yourself with a minimum of time and effort. So here is how it is done. Buy 1 large box and 4 medium size accordion folders. Label each accordion folder 1st quarter, 2nd quarter, 3rd quarter, 4th quarter. All bills, receipts, and bank statements, credit card statements etc that come in are dealt with appropriately, then they are shoved into the accordion folder of the appropriate quarter, in no particular order. Just put the piece of paper in the folder. The folders go inside the box. At the end of every quarter, before your quarterly accountant meeting, you can organize the folder, if you want. At the end of the year, you’ll have 4 accordion folders inside your box. Store the box in a safe placed and buy a new box and 4 new accordion folders. You must store the boxes for 7 years. This is not the method that experts—bookkeepers, accountants, and professional practice managers—use or recommend, but you don’t need to do it their way, and even if you wanted to, you couldn’t. The box method works just fine. The box method is better for the cash poor, busy, and lazy solo physician.

Any credentialing paper work, your diplomas, medical license, DEA certificate, etc, go in their own separate box, but they are also kept as digital copies on your hard drive in a folder labeled personal folder. You can make digital copies of your framed diplomas by simply taking a picture of them, without flash, with an inexpensive point and shoot digital camera. The digital files must be given names that you’ll recognize, like med license. When you need to re-credential, which occurs quite frequently, all you need to do is go into your personal file and print out copies of your documents. It’s that simple. When I need to re-credential, using this method, I can prepare a re-credentialing packet in under 5 minutes.

By the box!