When we last saw our hero (that’s you), information was coming into your life at an alarming rate. And now, you have to figure out what to do with it until you’re ready to use it. In essence, we need to look at how you store your information.
Of course, there are lots of systems out there, and you have to find what works for you. What you’re about to learn here, though, is a system of organization that can be used on any standard computer—or, "in the cloud" systems like Google Docs—and it works because it’s built around two fundamental principles:
- how you think, not how someone else thinks for you.
- a usage mindset, not a storage mindset.
Looking at those two points, it sounds completely obvious. But you’d be surprised.
How You Think
Before you even take your computer out of the box, there’s a lot of stuff already on it, such as applications, pictures, fonts, etc. For most people, that’s pretty transparent stuff; whether you use it or don’t, you take it for granted. However, there’s another out-of-the-box component that most people don’t ever mess around with, and it’s the cause of hours of wasted time, multiple headaches, and the all-too-common facial expression of blankness mixed with confusion that graces most people faces as they search umpteen buried folders on their hard drives, looking for that one file that they know they saved somewhere, but just can’t seem to find… the default folder structure.
Take a look at a standard Finder window, and (if you’re using a mac, as I do) you’ll most likely see something like this snapshot from Apple:
Mac’s Finder window, via Apple
Take a look in the sidebar, and you’ll see the basic rundown: Desktop, Home, Applications, Documents… and sometimes Movies, Pictures, and such (I know Windows has a similar setup, and I tried to find a screenshot somewhere, but Windows user will just have to extrapolate for themselves on this one; it has been years since I was a Windows user, and like someone who got food poisoning at a B-grade greasy spoon, I can’t bring myself to go back and try again…).
The general idea, quite simply, is that applications get stored in Applications, your documents get stored in Documents, and on and on. Tthis is such a ubiquitous structure, that many people replicate it if they start storing information online, even. The currency? Stuff.
But does this describe how you think about your work? Doubtful.