"The most important thing to remember about a briefcase," says Ronni Eisenberg in her new book, "Organize Yourself" from Collier Books, "is that its primary purpose is to transport items (usually papers) from one place to another. It is not a suitcase; it is not a storeroom; it is not a place to pack everything you were afraid to leave behind. It is your briefcase. Pack it carefully and it will serve you well."
Eisenberg lives in New York and is president of her own consulting firm. She presents her ideas on organizing oneself in business and personal areas: everything from melding two households to travel planning and packing. The book is formatted as a series of how-to lists.
Even a briefcase can be organized. The first consideration is to buy the briefcase that suits your needs. "Basically, briefcases come in two styles: a hard-sided suitcase type and an expandable type." The expandable case is usually lighter, but the hard-sided version preserves papers better. Some soft-side cases have removable shoulder straps for easy carrying. Certainly, you want a case that is tight so water or snow do not get in and moisten papers. Briefcases come with a variety of zipper and divider features. Ask yourself, what kinds of papers and supplies will I be carrying? Some women need a briefcase that also doubles as a purse. After your needs are defined, shop around for the case that also suits your budget.
The briefcase is your mini-desk. Eisenberg makes some suggestions as to what you must have: pad of paper, pen or pencil with eraser, business cards, reading material and calendar and address book. Things you ought to have: calculator, extra file folders, envelopes, a few stamps, paper clips, small gummed note pads, and highlighter.
Things that might come in handy: small dictaphone machine, ruler, small stapler, tiny flashlight, nail file and clipper, aspirin and bandages, moist towelettes, small sewing kit (such as the ones provided by some hotels), and an extra set of keys.
"Keep personal items in one compartment; desk supplies in another. All items (pen, stamps, aspirin, sewing kit), should be kept in the compartments of your briefcase for accessibility.
"Be certain that all papers you carry are put in their own file folder and labeled appropriately. Within the case, folders can be in chronological order according to the stops you'll be making or in alphabetical order." Designate a small compartment or use a zipper bag to gather receipts and other little pieces of paper that prove expenses until they can be processed.
Follow the same logical rules you use to organize the rest of your life. Your briefcase should probably be thoroughly reorganized at least once a week. Resupply needed items. Take out notes, receipts and information gathered that is ready to be filed and only keep current action papers that you will be needing. One of the main principles of paper management is to set aside a little time every week to process paper.
If you are preparing for a specific meeting or presentation, start a list as the gathering place for ideas of things that you will need to take.
One advantage to carrying a briefcase is that you can have the papers with you to do some work should you encounter an unexpected delay. Use spare moments to prepare a proposal or agenda, review progress on a project, fill in paper work for accounts, review goals, figure out priorities, or route a list of errands. Always have something with you to read.
When you use your briefcase to transport work home, be practical about how much time you'll have to work on it. What would happen if your briefcase were lost or stolen? Perhaps you need to see that there is a backup copy of information at the office.
If you should decide, for one reason or another, to carry something liquid such as deodorant, cologne or makeup, be sure to put it in a separate compartment where, if it should leak, it will not damage important papers.