Creating an organizational system
April 11, 2005 6:14 PM   Subscribe

How do you make a “trusted system”? A planning and organisational system which can be relied upon to contain your events, tasks, projects and thoughts?... One of the biggest obstacles for many people is how to create a system that is always there, at the ready, and worthy of your trust.
posted by ColdChef (18 comments total)
From the article:

For all those people who haven’t yet got into the spirit of toting a planner, I invite you to do one or more of the following:

Every night, write down a list of ten things. Use the following to get you started:
10 things I want people to say about me at my funeral
10 books I’ve always wanted to read, but didn’t
10 things to do every day to be healthier
10 best films I’ve ever seen
10 things I can do to help my career
10 ideas for a time travel story
10 happiest moments of my life
10 worst moments of my life
10 of my greatest strengths
10 of my greatest weaknesses
10 things I find exciting/sexy/sensual
10 other lists I can write

Draw one picture a day. (If you’re not an artist, don’t worry: after all, you can only get better.)

Keep your planner near the bed. Write down any dream you remember as soon as you wake up. (If you are in a rush, put down some keywords and elaborate when you can.) Analyse it, if you can.

Carry around at least one photograph in your planner that is meaningful to you, and you can show people.

Carry around at least one photograph in your planner that is meaningful to you, and you cannot show other people. (Nothing too incriminating!)

Keep a receipt envelope or folder in your planner, and keep clippings of news or magazine articles that speak to you in some way. Each month, read them and transfer to your filing cabinet.

Keep a tab called Journal in your planner, and keep your personal writings, sketches and ideas there. Clean out every couple of weeks (or 20 pages, whichever comes first) and store the pages in a safe place.

Make personal writing a daily habit. Put aside fifteen distraction-free minutes a day to write in your planner.
posted by ColdChef at 6:15 PM on April 11, 2005

Wow. That list idea is one of those "so obvious I wish I'd thought of it" ideas. Great link, especially for a "43 Folders" piece. I was getting sick of those.
posted by NickDouglas at 6:56 PM on April 11, 2005

The default, beloved, reasonably-priced, surprisingly-useful, quaint analog mefi journal of choice. Ever since the thread on these things, I picked up one at borders and have been using it since for jotting down dreams in the morning. I keep it nearby throughout the day as a place to consolidate what used to be a huge amount of paper scraps with important details on them. Size is important if the undertaking discussed in the article is to be successful, since you'll want to be able to carry it around and practically forget you have it until you need it.
posted by odinsdream at 7:09 PM on April 11, 2005

Mine still bulges my pocket. "Do you take notes a lot, or are you happy to see me?"
posted by NickDouglas at 7:24 PM on April 11, 2005

NickDouglas, if you love the Moleskine but hate the bulge, try the Volant line. Just like the real thing, but thin enough to fit nicely into a pants or shirt pocket.
posted by lewistate at 7:50 PM on April 11, 2005

pretentious twits. i carry a 7.75 x 5 inch university ruled notebook with plain brown cardstock covers from carolina pad and paper. about a buck and a half.
posted by quonsar at 8:05 PM on April 11, 2005

Pretentious twit. I carry some business cards in my pocket to write on the back of. Free (well, to me anyway) ;-)
posted by dg at 8:37 PM on April 11, 2005

Everyone I know that has "forged a strong personal connection" with their planner has at some point lost it and gone completely off the deep end.

I realize the previous sentence can be read two ways. Completely unintentional, but I rather like it.
posted by shoepal at 9:19 PM on April 11, 2005

some business cards in my pocket to write on the back of

see above: scraps of paper.
posted by odinsdream at 9:20 PM on April 11, 2005

I forgot to mention that I really find all these "productivity" sites and books fascinating. I don't particularly understand them or susbscribe to their methodologies, but the fact that they are so popular is quite intriguing (particularly since much of what they preach/espouse is often obvious at best).

Are they really changing people (and their disordered lives!) or are they simply appealing to some latent anal retentiveness in the kinds of people that are predisposed to glom on to this sort of personal productivity/improvement movement?

(I don't mean to disparage anyone into this sort of stuff, I suppose I'm just puzzled by the popularity.)
posted by shoepal at 9:35 PM on April 11, 2005

shoepal -

You know, as somebody with some connection to the whole trend, I wish I knew. I think, myself, that the popularity is indicative of a common problem (just as the popularity of dieting is indicative of some widespread issue with being able to maintain a sensible weight in western cultures).

There seems to be a steady trickle of people that have had "aha!" moments from the personal productivity sites, and improved their lives. But is the dressing around those moments connected at all to the structure of the revelation?

After all, many people's lives have been improved by religion - but that doesn't mean that any one religion is correct. It doesn't even mean there are some common aspects to religion that are true. It may just mean that if you act like you're planning on being religious, then you may subject yourself to enough self-examination to break yourself out of the bad habits that were hurting you before.
posted by ntk at 1:33 AM on April 12, 2005

>i carry a 7.75 x 5 inch university ruled notebook
>>I carry some business cards in my pocket

I use my brain.

Which is so plagued by synaptic misfires as to be nearly useless, but it does keep me entertained.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:47 AM on April 12, 2005

I have to admit to being totally in love with these kinds of systems. With so many streams of information flowing in, I'm obsessively concerned about the signal that gets lost, the opportunity missed. Getting Things Done (tm, expensive lectures available) seems to be a nice solution, if someone would just get the blackberry piece in place with the same skill as the outlook version found here

For those who share the affliction, make sure that you're checking out Merlin Mann's 43 folders, which is a nice clearinghouse of GTD and non-GTD systems alike.
posted by JoshBerman at 5:03 AM on April 12, 2005

Hey Shoepal-

my personal attraction to the whole organization kick is due to the realization that the majority of the issues in my life have at their root a complete and utter lack any planning/goals in my life.

once I realized that I knew I had to change whether I liked it or not.

NTK's comparison to religion is not off at all. Most religions contain some element of regular self examination. (Prayer, meditation, whatever.) I've read 3 or 4 organizational books in the last 6 months and all of them focus on self examination as the first step. The rest of the books are flavoring or tips/tricks for organizing what you find out from looking in the mirror.

posted by Wong Fei-hung at 5:58 AM on April 12, 2005

Bah. Nobody is worthy of MY trust.
posted by troutfishing at 6:35 AM on April 12, 2005

NTK and Wong, thanks for the explanations. I appreciate it. I like the religion analogy, too.
posted by shoepal at 6:54 AM on April 12, 2005

I read Getting Things Done during a period of underemployment a year ago and gave it a shot as I had some time on my hands - I'm happy with the results. I keep a 3-ring binder with a sheet of loose leaf paper for each project I'm working on, and as ideas occur to me out of nowhere throughout the day I jot them down on the appropriate page and get back to whatever I was doing. I'm more comfortable planning bigger, slower things these days.

One other similarity to religion is the tendency to rejoice in the system itself rather than the ultimate outcome - thinking, "man I used to be so disorganized" and then just leaving it at that.
posted by ChuqD at 9:35 AM on April 12, 2005

Shoepal "or are they simply appealing to some latent anal retentiveness in the kinds of people that are predisposed to glom

I think so. I sense there is a physiological basis for it. We all have an outer world and an inner world. For each of us, one of those worlds is more real than the other. For those folks who's inner world is more real than their outer world, there is a strong urge to write things down, organise things, make lists, be able to find things - it is literally part of how they construct their identities. These are the people who buy little dividers at IKEA to keep their socks, shorts and belt buckles segregated.

For those of us who's sense of our outer world is stronger than that of our inner world, our identities are based around our relationships with other people. Curling up on a sofa and writing down the ten things I want people to say at my funeral seems ... a sad way to spend an evening.
posted by RichLyon at 7:45 AM on April 14, 2005

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