Personal Filing System
Using MyInfo as reference filing system
Getting Things Done (GTD) is a time management method, created by David Allen. More about GTD.
GTD task/reminder system keeps your mind focused and clear from distractions such as important/urgent tasks you have to do, thus making you more productive. By sorting tasks by context you can utilize your time more effectively. And, finally, by creating a personal-reference information system* all information that is valuable for you is stored in the same place, which is very important later, when you need it. * - in fact, the original term is general-reference information system, however we prefer the term personal-reference information system, because it describes better its purpose, which is to store information that is valuable personally to you.
Maintaining a good personal-reference information system is crucial to ensuring stress-free productivity. This system should be easy and fast, or you will tend to stack things, instead of filling them. Lack of a good personal filing system could seriously undermine the implementation of an efficient personal action-management system.
MyInfo focuses on this aspect of GTD. It gives you the tools for creating an easy, fast, and even fun, personal-reference information system for your electronic documents and information.
An important trait of the GTD paper filing system is separating information in files, according to its subject. MyInfo follows this principle by encouraging you to organize information in different topics (MyInfo term for a computer file), which makes browsing and searching in your filing system easier.
Each topic holds a number of documents, which beside traditional text documents, could be also notes, links to web sites, and even files from other applications. These documents are organized in a convenient list or a tree (according to your personal preference). You can easily rearrange the documents and move them between the topics.
Establish a personal filing system – quick start guide
In order to create a good filing system, you need to put there all documents, information and files that you do not use currently, but may need in the future. So you have to get rid of all files scattered on your hard-drive, old e-mails and important information from IMs history. This makes your reference information not only easy to find, but also easy to backup.
Establishing a good personal filing system includes these steps:
- Deciding in how many topics you will sort the information and naming them properly.
- Moving the information from your hard-drive into these topics.
- Organizing the information in the topics.
- Updating your reference library regularly.
Deciding on topics
How many topics you will have depends on how much information do you have and what is the subject of that information. Just like in GTD each subject should have its own topic in MyInfo. As a general rule, if a topic has more than 100 documents, it is a good idea to split this topic. For example, if you are a hiking enthusiast and your Hiking topics gets more than 100 documents, you can split it into Hiking – Gear & Equipment and Hiking – Routes topics. MyInfo has no limit on how large a topic could be, however very large topics are hard to reorganize and it is not as easy to find the necessary information.
The easiest way to decide how many topics you need is to create them only when they are needed for a particular document. For example, if you encounter a document about traveling and have no topic dedicated on this subject, you create a new Travel topic and put the document there.
Moving information into topics
Your ultimate goal is to move all information scattered on your hard drive in your personal-reference information system. So be sure to check for:
- Documents, brochures, invoices, reports, white papers, software/hardware manuals, and all other files, which are not big enough to deserve their own folder on your hard-drive
- Old e-mail messages in your e-mail client, which hold some future value, but you do not need them currently
- Links in your favorites/bookmark system, which you have not used in a while, but may need in the future
- Instant Messenger (Skype, ICQ, AIM, MSN) history and chat logs, which contain some valuable information
- Any other information or small files, that you do use currently, but may do so in the future
Once you have moved all this information in your personal-reference information system, you can organize it, so it is easy to find later.
How you will organize the documents in each topic depends on the amount of documents in the topic and on your personal preferences. If you have only several documents in a topic, maybe the best way is to arrange them in a list, which will be easy to sort. On the other hand, if you have a topic with many documents, it is better to organize them in a tree. Information organized in a tree is easier to browse, because in the tree the information is organized from most general in the root of the tree to the most specific in the tree leaves.
Updating reference library
A good reference library is not a build and forget thing. Once you have set up your reference system, you have to maintain it in order to be always up-to-date. Every time you see an information that you find valuable, put it immediately in the appropriate topic (if there is no such topic yet, create it) in your reference library. Also be sure to examine your library at least once or twice a year for outdated information, which you no longer need in order to keep your system in a good shape.