Today I thought I would write about a system I used to use to keep my Executive organised everyday – the ‘bring up folder.’ I think most of you are familiar with the bring up folder system and many of you use it to also keep your Executives on track throughout the day. For those of you that don’t know, I wrote about the bring up folder in a post a few years ago… Here is my take on it:

This is my favourite tool for keeping on top of supporting documents for meetings. My bring up folder is a big expanding folder box in which I have put 31 dividers for every day of the month and then dividers for every month of the year. I put all of the information my Director needs for each meeting or general documents they require for that day in between each divider. At the end of every day I give them the following day’s paperwork in a clear plastic wallet with a printed copy of their diary for the day on top. I number each meeting on the diary print out and the papers are also numbered and placed in order depending on what meeting they relate to. It is one of my favourite tools as it means my manager has everything they need for that day and are well prepared. As I go through their emails during the day, I can print off the important bits and bobs and just add it to the bring up folder for whenever they need to see the paperwork again and then I can just get on with my work rather than trying to remember what meetings need which bit of paper.

So, I wrote this back in 2014 and I must say, reading it back, it sounds so old fashioned and very very bad for the environment! It was a brilliant system and worked so well. My Executive never had to worry if they had all of the right information as it was there at their fingertips each morning. They could have a quick look through the pack and see what their day was going to look like, they went into each meeting prepared and never missed a vital piece of information. Every single one of my Executive’s wanted paper copies of everything so this system made sense. I don’t think technology was quite up to scratch and they didn’t want to read documents on their blackberries or lug around their massive laptops!

But, as I said it isn’t the most modern system so why don’t we have a look at how we can modernise the bring up folder?

Using technology to modernise the bring up folder

Most of our Executives are now used to seeing their appointments on Outlook, iCal, Google Calendar or Gmail. They don’t necessarily need a printed copy of their daily calendar, and anyway, the pace of life in some offices mean that meetings are changed frequently throughout the day so a print off becomes redundant pretty quickly.

For me, printing off the daily calendar was useful because my Executive could quickly check the bring up folder and head off to their next meeting without having to check their Outlook calendar, Blackberry or ask me. Again, Executive’s are much more used to receiving alerts on their phone or tablet which will tell them about their next meeting and where to go. So first off let’s say that the daily printout can go! That is one less piece of paper! But, what about all the corresponding documents? How do we make sure our Executive’s know they have supporting documents and need to take them to the meeting and read them?

The easiest option and something that I was doing a little bit more towards the end of my career as an EA (with a slightly more tech savvy Exec) was to attach all of the corresponding paperwork to the meeting invitation in Outlook. At the beginning of each morning I would set aside some time for my Executive to look through their day and open all of the files. They could read the documents on their computer, print off anything they needed and they had it available on their tablet throughout the day. Easy peasy! But, again, this is a little clunky right? And, it doesn’t give us much chance to collaborate on documents. What other tools are available for Assistants to use instead of the old school bring up folder?

We have lots of tools now that allow us to collaborate online and I want to suggest a few options for you, but first how should we set up this online system? Well, actually I suggest a similar system to the bring up folder. Why not? It works!

Why not have an online system that has a separate folder for each month of the year and within those folders days of the week? You could easily slot each document in the day that it is needed. Simple and easy for your Executive to follow. Also, you could have separate folders for those big meetings – board meetings that take place quarterly for example. Anything relating to those meetings can be plonked in their own folder!

Obviously cloud technology has come a long way and there are loads of options that you can use to modernise your bring up folders. Here are just a few suggestions…

  • Dropbox
  • Evernote
  • Google Docs
  • One Drive
  • SharePoint
  • OneNote

You will also have an internal file sharing system that you could use for your Executive. All of these platforms allow for filing, sharing documents (Google Docs also allows for editing in real time, which is super helpful!) Now, as much as I want you to all go paperless. The reality is that a lot of Executive’s still want a physical printout of documents. But if you also have everything online they can read all of their supporting documents anywhere and it is totally secure.

So, I think the days of box files and plastic wallets are very much heading into the past! Anyone else feel old!?