Studies in organization

April 19th, 2005

As days go by I’m becoming increasingly interested in the ways in which people organize their lives. How do they plan their days? What do they use to maintain some semblance of organization in their planning? What methods to they use to get certain tasks done? Does it work?

I’m always searching for new methods of organization. I don’t know if I’m trying to streamline my tasks or just think of new ways to get to the same end, but I like to see how other people organize their lives and then incorporate their tactics into my own methods.

One example is the classic “to do” list. When I was in High School, instead of paying attention in class, I would write down lists of things I wanted to do when I got home. I would organize these lists into sections that dealt with different topics of interest. I would have sections for homework, computers, videogames, miscellaneous, etc.

The problem I ran into with these lists is that I wrote them down in my school notebooks and I never looked at them again until I was in class again. If I had accomplished anything on my list, it was entirely an accident. I would open up my notebook and exclaim “I completely forgot to do that!” or “Oh, I did this already.” At this point the list merely served as a device for distraction.

When I moved on to college I still maintained this process. It had gotten worse. I would fill entire pages full of things I wanted to do. The same problem surfaced as well: I would go back to the dorms and not look at the list again until I had class again.

In the past year or two I have adopted a new take on this process. I now carry around a small notebook of some sort in which I write down these things I want to accomplish. The current model looks like this:

The current version of my Personal Analog Assistant

Currently I just write down items I’d like to get accomplished and then I cross them off as they get done. There are no sections or symbols. Just lines and lines of text. Since I keep this in my bag and on my desk when I get home, I can keep tabs on things that need to get done. So far, this system is working out fairly well. Let it be known that I used this system long before Adam Gurno wrote about his own Parietal Disgorgement Aid. I’m just that hip.

This is just one part of my continuing search for the organizational key to my life. I have other systems that involve the computer (organizing folder systems is still a chore for me) and none of them seem to fully suit my needs. I enjoy continually evolving my organizational systems and trying new things. I’m fairly certain my next step in this process is getting a Moleskine.

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