How to File Things in Two Places at Once

Some information doesn't fit neatly into folder hierarchy.

Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #368

Listener Ann wrote in seven years ago, but I lost her message, and just found it. Hopefully, she's still a loyal listener. Hopefully, she's still alive. If not, well, there's some extra zombie reanimation powder in the storeroom.

Hi! I got a recipe book for Christmas, to store all of my recipes. The problem is though, I don't know exactly what or how I should sort it.

I could sort by type of meal—breakfast, lunch, snack, or dinner—or by type of food—cookies, cake, salad, etc. I don't know how I'll be looking things up at the time. What should I do?

My episode on filing things for retrieval won't quite do the trick, since Amy anticipates needing to retrieve her recipes many different ways. There's no one answer. Fortunately, here at Quick and Dirty Tips, we daily conquer the difficult, and weekly accomplish the impossible. So, I think Amy should file one item under both filing systems at once.

In 8th grade, we moved to a new city and I decided, for reasons known only to my bizarre 13-year-old mind (probably some weird puberty side-effect), to pretend I had an identical twin brother. I pulled it off for a few weeks, but what made it fall apart was that I couldn't be in two places at the same time.

Neither can files. But there are things you can do to file something in multiple places.

File Physical Files in Multiple Places

For example, let's say you're a theater fan like me. Not a stalking-and-restraining-order type fan, usually, but the kind of fan who gets your program autographed. You see "Finding Neverland" on Broadway and get Laura Michelle Kelly's autograph on your Playbill. You file it under "Finding Neverland," since all your memories of that show are connected to the show's name. But then you find out that Laura is an Olivier-award-winning actress whose other work you really like. You decide she deserves her own file, "Laura Michelle Kelly," since you might find other things she's done that you want to file.

So, now you want your playbill to have two files: "Finding Neverland" and Laura Michelle Kelly. Do it by using a cross-reference. Keep the Playbill itself in your "Finding Neverland" file. Then write on an index card, "Autographed program filed under Finding Neverland." Put the index card in your Laura Michelle Kelly file. Then, when you're browsing Laura's file, you have a reminder that you have her autograph in the Finding Neverland file.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.