At the close of each personal tax filing deadline, I make a promise to myself to be more organized this year and not wait until the week before deadline to sift through all my receipts and purchases. Like the guy who joins the gym on January 1 to finally drop that last twenty pounds, I start strong only to find myself pushing off many of my accounting duties in favor of things I enjoy more until I hit the week before tax deadline and start the vicious cycle over again. I keep all the information and download transactions from my bank every month; I just don't sort things into information buckets ahead of time. This year, I'm making a change.
One key to making this year a success is to actually use the accounting software I have on a regular basis. I'd love to switch to the Free Accounting Software package I featured back in July, but realistically I need to stick with Intuit's offerings because I do a fair number of sales via Paypal and Quicken and Quickbooks are the only two software packages Paypal officially outputs data for. Paypal also output a variety of delimited files, which I could do some transformations on, but I'm trying to reduce my barriers to success, making ease of use a key to my personal success. If you know MSSQL, Free Accounting Software may be a viable alternative because that's the underlying data structure.
In the meantime, I'm taking several additional steps to make sure I'm better organized across the board. 43 Folders as a hard number hasn't really fit my own personal organization style, but there are many elements of the Getting Things Done system that make perfect sense. I'm gradually improving at identifying the "stuff" (as author David Allen calls it), getting rid of the stuff that I don't need to deal with, creating places for the stuff I do need to keep. I'm still a bit weak in the areas of putting stuff in the right place consistently and doing stuff in context (as evidenced by my promise to organize my accounting above). Fortunately, I'm leaving room for improvement by examining what I'm doing on a regular basis. If you can't find time to read, there's always the Getting Things Done audio book.
I know I mentioned it last week, but ActiveWords is playing a huge role in helping me be more efficient across the board. Reducing the repetitive stuff is helping me spend more time with the stuff I enjoy. If you downloaded the app based on my recommendation last week, make sure you also download a few of the free add-ins as well. Scrolll through the list to see if anything applies specifically to your computing style, but be sure to grab MISSPELLINGS and INPLACE (which does math equations), along with the OUTLOOK add-in (if you're an Outlook user like me). The WEB bundle is also a great way to cut keystrokes in typing Website addresses.