Creative Filing Dilemma

Day 22 Week 4 Q1  Sunday, January 22, 2023

Creative Outliers have many ideas, not necessarily in one domain. We also have a lot of notebooks, files, folders, note-taking apps, index cars and a literally infinite number of ways to extend our brains, so we do not have to keep track of everything we think about internally. We can accumulate more ways to keep track of things than we can keep track of. 

Sometimes we use physical files, cabinets, folders, and heavens sheets of paper or even index cards. Sometimes we use local note-taking apps or cloud-based note-taking services. Sometimes we have more than one computer, tablet, or phone to store different things. I rarely get rid of old devices, computers, hard drives and backups because they may have the information I need at some time in the future. These devices may have different cables, power supplies, and operating systems, making it a gigantic IT chore to keep track of and keep running. Also, they do take up space.

In recent years we more often use cloud-based databases and tags instead of folders, or sometimes we use both. We use the software more than physical notebooks, but analog notebooks are still much faster for stream-of-consciousness format-free capture and seeing the iteration path.  Sometimes we use OS-independent systems like text files. Or place notes into calendars. Or keep tens of thousands of emails. 

But the even larger dilemma for me is I do not refer to things with the same names all of the time. So sometimes I can not look them up. I gained a piece of information last year, or was it three years ago, and was it related to project X or person Y, or maybe it was related to an organization, not a person or a project? 

Okay, we all know we need to keep track of things, and we also know we create an infinite number of ways to do this. This is a real dilemma. Compound this with having had multiple offices in multiple enterprises and living in multiple places and perhaps even with different people. It is enough to stop moving and stay in the same job or profession and with the same partner so that I do not have to turn my universe upside down again. 

I even have friends who have been using Evernote or Apple Notes for a decade or two and deliberately put on blinders not to become aware of the new categories of note tools. There is no single panacea, but there is one which may come close, and that is to use tags because you can usually associate multiple tags with the same moral of information, unlike putting a file or copies of it into multiple folders. Yes, I have tried that as well. I have also tried creating a personal wiki or three until the apps became unsupported. 

Chronological storage with embedded tags seems kit a way to have a linear framework with multiple multidimensional perspectives. And one more aspect of this dilemma is some files are tiny like 2K text files another’s are huge, like 2 GB video files. Yes, some of these files are 1000 times larger than others, and this, too, has to be dealt with.

I have found a way, or at least I think I have found a way, to deal with all of these issues. A master index, like libraries, used to use the card catalog to help them find books, tapes, films, and everything in the library. Of course, it did help to have a friendly librarian to help us search for things.

My answer is to become my own friendly librarian and create my own master index, which points me toward the multitude of ways I have things stored. And to also have a digital chronological diary so I can search for terms and occasionally be directed to my analog notebook journals, where every page is dated.

The combination of a set of analog dated notebooks and a digital journal with a digital master index permits me to have as many different storage solutions as I want as long as I remember to point to them. It works very well, but I have not yet achieved my definition of being organized, which is to be able to locate anything in my life within five minutes. However, I can ensure that new information can be found quickly and easily.