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Homogenous vs heterogenous filing

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  • Homogenous vs heterogenous filing

    Okay, only someone a little OCD and trying not to be too OCD would concern themselves with this issue...

    In fileing paper or storing objects, one is faced with the degree to which items are to be labelled/filed/boxed individually (e.g, greeting cards) or combined (birthday cards, sympthay cards, blank cards). I am wondering if other people have rules of thumb or best practices for this? I, like David, will readily put a single piece of paper in a labelled folder because I hate looking though a dozen related papers for one thing. I want to get my hands on something immediatly. But, if I am not careful I may confuse myself with too many files with names that are rather similar or I will name something so specifically that if I file it by alphabetically I won't find it when I am searching for similar items with different names. Any thoughts?

  • #2
    Perhaps I'm not the best example, at least of GTD doctrine, but I use a simple two-tiered system: I have main categories, then within that specifics. So in your example, I'd have Cards as the main category, then within that I'd have a folder for Birthday cards, one for Anniversary cards, and so on. In general I don't organise alphabetically within the main category, so I wouldn't bother about putting the Anniversary folder in front of the Birthday folder, unless I had a lot of folders within that category.

    Practically, this means I have a standing label on the first folder in the category, then labels stuck on each folder (I don't use hanging folders, just manilas).

    It works for me, and means I don't have to remember exactly what I called something, because my main categories are all quite distinct. And because there's usually less than a dozen specific categories within each main category, if necessary I can leaf through them until I find what I want.

    Probably comes from having been a maths and software geek: I optimise my searching.

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    • #3
      Occam's Razor / Evolution in practice

      Originally posted by Jamie Elis View Post
      In fileing paper or storing objects, one is faced with the degree to which items are to be labelled/filed/boxed individually (e.g, greeting cards) or combined (birthday cards, sympthay cards, blank cards). I am wondering if other people have rules of thumb or best practices for this?
      Hi Jamie,

      there is a nice rule of thumb that is about 700 years old. It's called Occam's Razor: "entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity."

      In your case, it means that you start with as few labels as possible, by default. "Greeting cards" is your starting point. If (and only if) your experience shows that you're beginning to waste a lot of time because you don't have subsections in your "greeting cards" folder, it's time to split up this single folder into multiple ones.

      IMHO this is not a philosophical issue. Consider a car rental company, compared to a garage: although cars have engines, it's not likely that a rental company will track car engines seperately from the cars. If a car breaks down, they're not likely to re-use the engine in isolation. On the other hand, for a garage, this might make sense.

      So, filing systems depend on their usage / users, not on what we think they "should" be, seen from a philosophical point of view.

      Rolf
      Last edited by Rolf F. Katzenberger; 01-30-2008, 05:12 AM.

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      • #4
        There is a lot of reason to what is posted here. If you were an HR professional for example, you would probably be filing your cards in a more complex manner, since that is what you would be sending rather frequently. As such you would also have more cards on hand. If, on the other hand, you send out a few per month at the most, I would simplify it - have fewer folders to go through. It is much easier to make a selection from a batch of cards you pulled from a folder and are now looking at them in your hand, rather than skimming through folders labels.

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