,Let's face it. Not all Private Investigators are the best organized when it comes to "paperwork" (we are referring to both digital case file information and real paper). So what do you do???? Here's some advice, not necessarily new advice mind you, from one of the most disorganized private investigators we know. (She asked that we withhold her name - so we named her "Messy").
Private I HQ: "How do you stay organized since we're told you're disorganized?"
Investigator "Messy": "For paperwork I use pocket file folders. One for each case I'm actively working. I simply take all paperwork, like my receipts, copies of evidence, all of it, and put them in the folder. Now it's all in one place. I throw a couple of blank sheets of paper in there for my notes, expense and time logs."
Private I HQ: "OK, Investigator "Messy", what do you do about electronic files?"
Investigator "Messy": "The same thing. I make a file on my computer desktop with the case number as the name. When I receive an email in reference to a case I save it to a PDF file and then drag and drop in the case file folder on my desktop. Digital files, like surveillance video, or statements, I do the same thing. By the way, a neat thing you can do, I guess depending on your computer, you can right click and print and everything in the folder, except the videos of course. I can then add those to my pocket file folders when I'm on the road."
Private I HQ: "That sounds pretty organized. Why do you feel you are disorganized?"
Investigator "Messy": "My friends remember how it was for me before I set-up this system. My desk was always piled high with papers. I mean really piled up. You couldn't see the top of my desk." [She places her hand about a foot above the table showing the height:-)]
"I felt like I could find everything, and I could. It just took me a long time. Now I simply grab the case file folder, or open it on my desktop and look for what I need. The key is to put anything in the folders as soon as possible. Immediately! I know other investigators that do the exact same thing. So, it's not my idea, just an idea that I put in to motion because of the ribbing I took from friends and family."
Private I HQ: "Why not an electronic case file system?"
Investigator "Messy": "Cost and it's just me. Also, I tailor my completed reports for what the client needs. Sometimes that's hard to do with an electronic file system. And, for me, having an electronic report writing system requires me to be tied to a desk. I'm on the go a lot and often work away from the office. I'm sure there's an online solution out there, but again, it's a cost issue. A cost that would ultimately have to pass on to my clients."
Sometimes, the tried-and-true, simple method is the best.
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