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  • Weeding out and SIMPLIFY Reference Folder

    I have a habit of saving EVERYTHING digital. My review folder has cycled from having 10-20 folders to literally 100-200+ folders. I've changed my organization system around from shoving items in folders, to labeling a file with a "folder name" meaning if I saved an online chat. instead of putting it in a chat folder, I'd name it chat_Chatperson_date. Or if I had a life-coaching call I'd put the clients notes not in a folder of "life_coaching_clients" but just name the file "clientnotes_client name" and so i'd have all files in the reference folder as files, not folders because folders tend to stagnate. However, when I change a lifestyle pattern (say leave an online forum, or stop communicating with a certain group of persons (because of differences , relocation, etc ) I archive all documents and conversations that I may have had or printed up. This is great for a complete computer reference file, but a side-effect result is MASSIVE clutter, chaos and hellish reference folder where I do't really know what's in there half the time.

    The biggest issue is I save things without knowing their purpose. Maybe I psychologically may want to see what kind of thoughts I had when I posted on xyz forum in 2004 or something or what things I printed off as an @AGenda with xyz person x amount of years ago.

    I'm trying to make my reference folder weeded out. It's VERY weedy. But fortunately, I don't ever think to myself "shoot, I wish i wouldn't have deleted that contact or file or journal or whatever". The downside is I frequently think "why the hell do I save these almost useless files"?

    This most likely will evolve into a 50k-30k convo about priorities.

    however, the biggest solution for me will be having HARD LINES for project support files. I have about 200 projects currently and many Reference files are strictly linked to those individual projects. So I SERIOUSLY need to develop a system for project support files. how do I link a conglomeration of various project support file which each of the 200 projects. Everyone acts like this is so simple, but in reality, it's the most complex part of gtd, or of any productivity system in general.

    The main question is what's a good system for project support files? I put all those in reference, which I believe is causing problems.
    Thanks.
    Last edited by validatelife; 05-24-2008, 08:36 PM. Reason: added in project-support consideration

  • #2
    Let me see if I understand. Are you revisiting old projects that you completed a long time ago? Why? Have they become active again?

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by validatelife View Post
      I have a habit of saving EVERYTHING digital.
      This is a habit you are going to have to break.

      Does your computer filing system reflect your manual system? I have found that it is useful to have my computer filing system following the same rules as I apply to my manual system. That way I don't need to think in different ways for each system.

      As for reducing the size of your computer reference file, I would ask: has someone else got a copy of this? And can I get a copy easily when I need it? If the answer to those questions is 'yes' and I don't need a copy of the file for a project I'm working on, I get rid of the file.

      Comment


      • #4
        Get a Mac. Install DevonThink Pro on it, and use DTP to index your reference files. Problem solved.

        DTP is a freeform database with powerful AI and fuzzy search features. You can group similar files together (including putting a file in more than one group), or you can ask the AI to find things "like this." Unlike many such programs, it's also scalable to millions of words and hundreds or thousands of files. It's the best thing that every happened to e-packrats.

        To the best of my knowledge, there's nothing like it for Windows. Everything close costs orders of magnitude more. It (and Scrivener) goes a long way to justifying the switch all by itself.

        Katherine

        Comment


        • #5
          How often do you actually refer to this old information? If you haven't looked at something in over a year or two, then it is proabably a good candidate for deletion. An old adage for moving house is that any boxes that have not been opened after a year should be tossed/donated (unless it is something required by law to be kept [taxes, etc] or something of great sentimental value). I think this advice applies equally well to electronic "boxes".

          If you can't bear the thought of getting rid of this stuff for good, throw it on a CD/DVD or a USB drive and get it out of your "active" space.

          You might consider grouping your files by project/client instead. A single folder for each should suffice -- no need to separate chats from emails from spreadsheets from [...]; the file extensions will take care of that for you.
          Last edited by jknecht; 05-25-2008, 10:29 AM.

          Comment


          • #6
            FileCenter

            Look into FileCenter: http://www.lucion.com/filecenter-overview.html

            Note: this is for Windows Only

            This may be a solution for managing your digital files. I continue to have great success with the professional edition.

            They offer a 30 day free trial.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by GTD_in_ATL View Post
              Look into FileCenter: http://www.lucion.com/filecenter-overview.html

              Note: this is for Windows Only

              This may be a solution for managing your digital files. I continue to have great success with the professional edition.

              They offer a 30 day free trial.
              Thanks ATL, I really appreciate your input. Thanks!, but I have zero interest in 1)anything windows-related and 2)any organizational system that you have to purchase.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Brent View Post
                Let me see if I understand. Are you revisiting old projects that you completed a long time ago? Why? Have they become active again?
                Hhmm.. Interesting perception, Brent. With a few instances I could be unintentionally revisiting old projects, but the main inclination I have here is to just save and archive everything. Because I didn't archive old chats, agenda, etc. information using a alpha-numeric or categorized system that allowed my mind to "forget about" that archived reference material, it's still having psychological clutter.

                Additionally, I don't really understand the purpose of why I've saved all of these old conversations with people, long email attachment documents, etc. The letters to friends and family has "memorabilia" significance, but, for example, for a class, I took notes on a nyt arrticle, wiing 1-2 paragraphs per day, so I ahve aboue 50 of those. Then I have a couple dozen of odd nuance projects like that. That I guess are just all "incubate items" that have been incubating forever and I want to discard most of them, but don't want to throw out the baby with the bathwater and lose somethign of potential future value.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by kewms View Post
                  Get a Mac. Install DevonThink Pro on it, and use DTP to index your reference files. Problem solved.

                  DTP is a freeform database with powerful AI and fuzzy search features. You can group similar files together (including putting a file in more than one group), or you can ask the AI to find things "like this." Unlike many such programs, it's also scalable to millions of words and hundreds or thousands of files. It's the best thing that every happened to e-packrats.

                  To the best of my knowledge, there's nothing like it for Windows. Everything close costs orders of magnitude more. It (and Scrivener) goes a long way to justifying the switch all by itself.

                  Katherine
                  Wow, thanks katherine. However, Either I communicated poorly or maybe you just erroneously assumed I was windows user, but I've been using macs for 22 years. Do people just automatically assume what operating system people are on? It's really strange how the details of people's advice are totally irrelevant because of false assumptions they make. Anyways, In fact (kinda joking) being perceived as a non-mac user is something I consider an insult! haha! So there's no switch necessary. I'm already on a mac and have been for years, since I was two... In fact, now that i think about it, almost all of this "odd clutter" arose for the one year in 2007 when I experimented with a windows machine (of course I had a mac going all the time, too). I ditched the windows after realizing how terrible of an OS it was.

                  Thanks for your DTP rec. But again, my problem is not lacking an "indexing search" program. I looked into DTP and it does look pretty cool, but I've been doing pretty well with iWork and apple's sofware and want to try to stick to that. PLus, but I can do some pretty advanced searches just fine with apple's bult-in, strong search capacities. Additionally, I steer clear from most 3rd party non-apple software. I just need a solid, simple filing system for e-files. There could be entire books written on that, but I think DA's GTD only touched on e-reference organizaiton for what? 2 pages?

                  But you touched on the exact gist of my thread here. It's needing a complete "hole-less" e-gtd system. I don't WANT to be an e-packrat, but also don't want to discard files of value. I'm trying find a healthy medium between that. I've saved school files from elementary school and highschool. Those are highly organized in a chronological semester-year based system, but there's a lot of clutter, like I couldn't find a play so I had to scan in a large portion of a library screenplay, I've done a lot of personal "curiosity research" on everything from electronics to botany to investing, so I have those notes, some of which has gone towards blog. I have over ten documents of different types of self-limitations I'm trying to work through (reference clutter being one, haha). On and on..."stuff". It's ALL e stuff, though. DAs book targets primarily babyboomers who have the majority of their clutter in desk drawers and in non e-spaces". Basically I need to find a 100% e-GTD book of sorts.

                  Also, in another thread (I think bout finishing tasks -- I should just keep this all one thread, it's inter-related, no point butchering the topic) you mentioned importance of planning. I think you're right. More planning would benefit me.

                  Like another project I'm working on is archiving all my 15 websites. Some of them were for corporations some of them for a school class -- the range of the purpose of the websites is extremely broad, but they're all unique. the organization of all of them is a bit sloppy. I needed an image on the "contact page" so I through in a link to an image outside of hte image folder, etc. I just need some uniformity and consistency of how the pages, code, and images are organized for each site (and labeling each site as YEAR_sitename, so 2001_calculus for one sort, for example). The whole goal of doing that (a project which will involve a lot of tedious hyerlink debugging after I rearrange folders and manage broken links) will be to get scope on my web work (all of which I've done for free), to transform that into a tangible sequence of accomplishments and remove webwork from my psychological clutter.

                  One thing that I have DOWN is how photographs are organized. I have scanned in or digitally take close to a thousand photos and I use practicaly zero folders. The organization system (as well as for film, documentary projects, and home videos) for film and photos is chronological YEAR_MONTH_LOCATION_notesname so for example, 2002_05_IL_graduationparty or somethign would be a photo or footage. That works AWESOME because it's extensible. new photos and film easily gets added to the system, incredibly searchable (i can search spotlight for notes, name) or just instantly jump to the relative year and then month to zero in on the media. The best part is it's just ONE folder of 800-1100 properly chronologically labeled media files.

                  If I could get my documents (typed word files) inclluding emails, research, school notes, papers, articles, books, etc. in a similar format there would be over 4000 such files, but that would be the way to go. It's having hundreds of poorly labeled nested folders, basically that kills me.

                  The proper chronological labeling of film and photos is invaluable and although there's a massively high volume of media, the labelling system creates zero psychological clutter.

                  The entire end result of ALL of this "simplification" is
                  1)Increased time away from computer
                  2)Increased utility for career, success, and fulfillment of all the 1000s and 1000s of computer writing, web design, research, etc stuff that I've done.
                  3)Overall good ol' fashioned "electronic tidying up".

                  Just doing #1 wouldn't be worthwhile because that would be discarding things of tremendous sentimental, career, memorable, and/or informational value, so gettinga crisp org. system so my mind can leave the e-reference files beside themselves (as my mind can do with the properly organized photos and film media archives), and then siphon out the essentials for career.

                  Right now my computer basically feels like a brain!! It doesn't feel like a neat system of organized folders I can just flip open and get the material I need. I've done hundreds of brainstomring, notes, and projects on the computer, so that's all jumbled in with the reference files. I'm fortunate I have hard crisp defined, and properly categorized files with photos and film, but I must do the same with mainly written files or (web-related) code. Websites are tricky because moving around folders and files, obviously, is impossible unless you want to rewrite links, so it's important to keep those separate from distinct files, reports, notes, brainstroming files, that won't "disassemble or break" if you separate them from something else.

                  I just have a lot of tedious computer, web, printing, html updating, resume tweaking, research typing, blog consolidation, tasks and I need to plan larger goals tied to career, to income, and to success. I guess mind-mapping? is a great way to plan?

                  I think trying otu paper-based GTD methods for awhile will massively increase productivity because it would break the pattern of going into e-packrat mode.
                  Last edited by validatelife; 05-26-2008, 05:35 PM.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Windows is 91% of the market. Assuming that a random forum poster is using Windows will therefore be correct more than 90% of the time.

                    And if you're already using a Mac, then a recommendation of Mac software is *completely* relevant to your question.

                    But clearly you were too busy dismissing my advice as "irrelevant" to actually read it. If you had read it, you would realize that DTP is *not* an "indexing search" program at all, but a database. It addresses exactly the problems that your original post described, and in fact I've used it to attack very similar problems of my own.

                    But, again, to realize that you would have needed to actually read my post.

                    Katherine

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by jknecht View Post
                      How often do you actually refer to this old information? If you haven't looked at something in over a year or two, then it is proabably a good candidate for deletion. An old adage for moving house is that any boxes that have not been opened after a year should be tossed/donated (unless it is something required by law to be kept [taxes, etc] or something of great sentimental value). I think this advice applies equally well to electronic "boxes".

                      If you can't bear the thought of getting rid of this stuff for good, throw it on a CD/DVD or a USB drive and get it out of your "active" space.

                      You might consider grouping your files by project/client instead. A single folder for each should suffice -- no need to separate chats from emails from spreadsheets from [...]; the file extensions will take care of that for you.
                      I use the information sporadically. I've experimented with folders such as
                      "Inactive for >6 months"
                      "Inactive for > 1 year' etc.

                      It would be great to create a smart folder, based on "last modified" components.

                      Alas, I'm reluctant to discard some filed because of the pain of acquiring them (a rare book's 10-20scanned pages for example) again, if needed.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        A Very Eccentric Project

                        Many years ago during college, instead of watching tv, excessive video games, even reading books, etc. I craved IT interaction and learning and writing so I just started researching and categorizing anything that appealed to me. After awhile I had documents ranging in length from 200 words to 200,000 words in the areas of

                        Humanities
                        • Art
                        • Political Science
                        • English
                        • Drama_Film
                        • Philosophy
                        Science
                        • Botany
                        • Anatomy
                        • Biology
                        • Computers
                        • Mathematics
                        • Composers
                        • Economics
                        • Cooking
                        • Electronics
                        • Exercise_Nutrition

                        And more. In a sense I, unknowingly created my own little personal wikipedia. The english file and the drama file contain well over a couple hundred thousand words, and the mathematics file I have added to recently.

                        While eccentric, I recognize this as a better use of time than watching the tube or doing something passive. This was active.

                        My problem now was that I initiated this MASSIVE project (who knows how many thousands of hours) just inuitively without logically thinking out for what purpose I'd use all of this for.

                        Some possible aplications:
                        --resourceful teaching -- I can pull up one of those files and passionately teach practically any field of academia
                        --down the road expanding myself by making cross inter-disciplinary connections
                        --providing myself with a unique personal database to start a conversation with literally almost any type of person from any field or profession

                        Causes for this project:
                        --simply information processing; helped me process the huge mounds of information that was shoved my way during school
                        --differentiating what I had an interest in and didn't want
                        --poor teachers, boredom in school, not feeling like college was challenging enough;

                        But outside of the academic bubble having all those classifications wasn't as useful. During school this was useful because I could communicate with a biology major or a chem major or an anthropology major regardless of what my major was because I would just pull up in my mind any research facts and writings I had done on teh computer.

                        How can I leverage all of this research? for career? It seems like it should still have value.


                        but all that's in a past life. the web design ,research, writing, etc. was a massive part of my old life and it was primarily of spiritual and philanthropic derivatives. For earning career, I'm focusing on something different. My only focus is performance (stand-up, acting, music) now. That's why I moved to california.

                        So I guess the best thing to do is just get all those old files, websites, and everything highly organized and then just shove it all in a "stuffit" archive, and then pull it out when I think I need it?

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          You may want to take into consideration how quickly you want access to all of that information. And, when you do, will you really want to go through all of your old e-files first or will you be accessing the internet or other reference material first? If you will be using your many years of data file hoarding as you primary source first, then you may want to consider getting a proper program right away. If, on the other hand, you do not think you will need to have regular or immediate access, then consider this project like a "cleaning out the attic" project. Sure there is much you would like to have as memorabilia and it would be great to have that organized, but, like most, there probably is also a lot you could throw out. That project may not be vital at the moment and is a project that you could tackle over a longer time period.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by kewms View Post
                            Windows is 91% of the market. Assuming that a random forum poster is using Windows will therefore be correct more than 90% of the time.

                            And if you're already using a Mac, then a recommendation of Mac software is *completely* relevant to your question.
                            Mac software is relevant to a mac user, but not a mac user who wants to steer away from 3rd-party programs and stick to apple only software. So it's relevant, but outside my software area of interest. I've had a lot of problems with non-apple software over-complicating my life.

                            Sorry if you were offended by me calling your suggestion "irrelevant" . Although the mac suggestion is right on, using 3rd party software isn't congruent to my interests of simplification. I just don't understand the point of why someone would give advice if they instinctively erroneously assume the recipient won't read it.

                            I read your quote in full. It's too bad you doubt me. I don't really know why you do, but I DID research DTP with macworld article, believe it or not. And it looks awesome, but like I said I'm not interested in complicating my life with more 3rd party software programs, but I may check that one out just for experimentation. The goal is my entire brain and hundreds of thousands of words (books, research projects, self-notes, notes about agenda people convos, total well over 1.4-1.5 million words. 100s of documents ranging from 5,000 to a few larger ones closer 10 50,000 words. It's utterly insane. I don't really understand why I did all of that writing/research work.

                            I didn't have video games, tv, other distractions, but I have a highly active and intelligent "curious" mind. I just, for example opened a document called "Philosophical movements" and discovered over 5,000 words of shorthand research detailing sophists, cognition, and ancient greek philosophers. I don't even remember taking those notes but they're mine (and from personal research). Should I blog that stuff? Teach it? I don't know. It's clutter now, but most certainly not trash, nor reference, all of that has been incubating. At the very least I want to stop reading most new books and focus on scourging through my own reference files. Then, for example, another file is a detailed list of common phrases to say in 5 different languages, it's all extremely outlined and organized. I did this just out of curisoity. I can't passively read an article or watch TV without doing something constructive or active, so this is the result. Close to 2 million words (no joke) of self-analysis journals and notes, trivia research projects, thoroughly processed books, simple reading notes from various books, and more.

                            I thought gtd productivity forum the best place to post this concern.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by sdann View Post
                              You may want to take into consideration how quickly you want access to all of that information. And, when you do, will you really want to go through all of your old e-files first or will you be accessing the internet or other reference material first? If you will be using your many years of data file hoarding as you primary source first, then you may want to consider getting a proper program right away. If, on the other hand, you do not think you will need to have regular or immediate access, then consider this project like a "cleaning out the attic" project. Sure there is much you would like to have as memorabilia and it would be great to have that organized, but, like most, there probably is also a lot you could throw out. That project may not be vital at the moment and is a project that you could tackle over a longer time period.
                              sdann, GREAT suggestions. Thanks this helped clarify and create scope. I'm taking both suggestions and implementing them into the solution:
                              1. I'm treating this as a cleaning out "e-attic" (or entire e-house, given this volume of files).
                              2. After doing this thorough "cleaning e-house" I'll have a distilled archive of amusing, memorable, and/or highly use-able reference files that I WILL want to access quickly and have at an efficient e-rolodex loading reference station.

                              don't appreciate the "hoarding reference" -- Don't know if I made this clear but 90% of all these e-files I'm talking about are not "downloaded" files. I'm the author on 90% of them. That's what makes this so strange, peculiar, and difficult to process. A lot of these files are notes from other authors, brainstorming, information processing, partial steps to a book, blog, or article, or "left over remains" from a book, article, or blog already published, posted, or finished. Therefore some of these files are NAs, some are pure reference or trash, non-actionable, and some are project support files. I'm becoming aware how cluttered all of these are. The source of this is over computer useage, an addiction to typing maybe, I think the main reason WHY I did all of this other than the overwhelming need to be productive! but mainly not having a teaching outlet. It's obvious I want to teach and share all this material, but haven't been provided the opportunity to do so, it all the files (language notes, philosophical movements, english book notes, chemistry fascinations, ALL of it) gets involuntarily incubated. It's almost savant-like now that I think about it. But I know some these files have incredible career and professional value so I need to utilize them for that.

                              oddly some of the cause for taking notes on so many of these files was lack of internet access in some places or other odd "accessibility difficulties".

                              Another reason was I've done all this for the past 8 years or so on small laptops. When I see all this on a larger screen or with a desktop, and HD space, that provides scope to the project to because putting all of these files onto a larg-screen huge-capacity desktop mac is the equivalent of dumping all your physical stuff in a physical in-box.

                              through in years of migrating from computer to computer -- a year experimentation with linux and windows -- and you have all kinds of odd, bizarre files.


                              Thanks.

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