A common question I hear is, “What do I do with all the information that I have to manage? I get so many ideas, or read so many good things, I want to save it for later — but how do I manage it all?”
Let me just cut to the chase here: You don’t need as much as you think.
Now, before you click away in search of greener pastures, let me assure you that I wasn’t one of those people raised to be happy with little. I didn’t grow up in a zen garden, or with one bowl and one spoon to go with my one burlap sackcloth robe.
I grew up in a house probably quite similar to yours. And, my parents being self-admitted “pack rats” — I could tell you stories — I actually grew up collecting and saving all kinds of things, thinking that someday I’d need all that stuff.
But I have seen the light.
After years of saving all kinds of stuff — articles and clippings from magazines I knew I’d need to refer back to someday, notes I’d taken about experiences I’d had or inspirations that popped into my head unannounced, cool ideas about ways to do things, organize stuff, or otherwise achieve goals I set for myself — I had a series of experiences and epiphanies that put an end to my hoarding ways.
The first was that I moved. A lot. After growing up in one town for 25 years, I started moving around. After schlepping my stuff from state to state over five times in two years, I learned what was essential and what wasn’t.
Then, three moves and two states later, a friend recommended a book to me called “Clear Your Clutter With Feng Shui,” by Karen Kingston. It’s a fabulous book for lots of reasons, but the key distinction I took from it was that I didn’t have to hold onto things that no longer served me, because I could always replace them later.
Now, that may not seem like much. And on it’s own, it probably isn’t. But, coupled with the spiritual teachings I was receiving at the time, it took a weight off my back comparable to Atlas’ legendary load.
Why We Hoard
We hoard, whether it be money, food, or information, not because we need to, but because we fear that if we let it go, we won’t have it when we need it.
I know a lot of folks who grew up during the Great Depression, or are children of people of that era, have those kinds of beliefs present in them.
But the truth of it is, we always have what we need when we need it. It’s one of the fundamental principles that creation was wrought with — the Divine hand of sufficiency.
When the moment comes, you either have what you need already, or you’re led to find it, and given the urge to achieve it. Always.
We live in an abundant universe, where we are always taken care of.
Just this past week, I went sledding with my family. And on my first run down the hill, with my two-year-old between my legs, we careened off the hill and fell eight feet down a drainage ditch and into an icy streambed.
We were fine, though. Totally unharmed. Sure, I was scared for my daughter. But within seconds after landing (she on me, me on my rear end), we were laughing about it.
Talk about an abundant universe! And, had one of us been hurt, I know that would have been in perfection, too, just not my immediate picture of it.
So, if you feel the urge to hoard, to pack-rat away some piece of information you have, breathe into your heart’s connection to the field of Oneness that surrounds you, and remember what you need to know.
Doesn’t this also mean that we’re given information for good reason?
Absolutely, and of course. The idea isn’t to shun all input, it’s to recognize what’s useful, and what’s fluff.
When you come across input that you believe you might need later, save it. Clip it, hold onto it, print it, whatever. And here’s the key: unless it has immediate relevance to something you’re working on, put it all in the same place.
Then, once a week or so, go through that stack (or folder) of stuff, and decide where it should go.
Why not just put it where it should go right away, you ask?
- If it has immediate relevance, you’ve already put it where it needs to go.
- If it doesn’t, then letting it sit a couple of days removes the “shiny, new object” syndrome, and let’s you know if you need to keep it or not.
Shiny, new object syndrome (SNOS) affects us all. It dulls your sense of reason enough so you don’t actually know if you need something or not. (Ever seen a kid walk through a toy store? They want ev-er-y-thing. But, get them home an hour later, ask them what they want for their birthday, and see how much of what they just saw they actually remember.)
So, when you go through your week’s stack, toss out anything SNOS-infected, and put the quality stuff where it belongs (more on this in just a moment).
It’s very, very important not to let that stack grow for too long, by the way. The responsibility of going through it, and the training you get when you do it, is important for your learning curve. It trains you to know what’s useful and what isn’t, which will help you become more selective in the future.
Now, the final step:
Once the SNOS’s are gone, you have to decide how to categorize what’s left so you can find it again later.
There’s nothing more frustrating than cleaning out old files and seeing that nugget you wish you had six months ago, just because you couldn’t find it when you needed it, or didn’t even remember you had it.
The key is to categorize your folders and such only into specific projects. In this new way of being, there’s no such thing as non-specific areas.
If you teach healthy eating, don’t file stuff into “health”… put it into your “Nutritious Home Cooking workshop” files. If you’re a management consultant, don’t put that article into “leadership”, put it into your client files for “ABC Tech”. Because that’s where you’re going to use it.
What if you need it somewhere else? Then it’ll be easy to remember, because it’s already gone through more processing in your brain, and you’re more likely to associate your way to it, than if it’s a general file.
Here’s the golden rule of organization: What is general gets lost, but what is specific, gets remembered.
So, in summary:
- Feel free to save stuff, just put it in the same place every time.
- Process it regularly, to weed out the SNOS-related material.
- Categorize by specific project, not general ideas.
Truth be told, the information age is here to stay. There will always be wonderful ideas under every rock you overturn.
And now that you have a system to manage it all with, you can spend more time doing what you love to do — use it all to make your life better!