An Organizing Framework for a Complex World

March 16, 2010 by  

Looking at my desk some days makes me despair. I never seem to get ahead of all the things that need doing. I’m beginning to think I need a new system to deal more effectively with it all.

Some days there’s no doubt in my mind that the complexity of our brave new world and all its “time saving” technology has just made it all more complicated. Other days I am so delighted with the tools that enable me to communicate with many people located all over the world, do my banking at all hours, and organize my thoughts into a neat and tidy proposal that can easily be whisked to the client across the ethernet.

Because I’ve been travelling more lately the keeping on top part of my life has taken a hit. Adding to it is the fact that I have a new Mac and I have to learn all its hidden secrets. To my delight yesterday’s Globe and Mail provided a new and interesting framework for managing my desk. The ideas come from David Allen in his Productive Living newsletter via Harvey Schachter’s Monday Morning Manager series.

The filing system looks intriguing. Instead of saying make 3 piles – do something with it, save it, trash it – as many simplistic organizing systems do, this one plumbs the depths of possibility more deeply with options like:

• I don’t need it or want it – Trash
• I still need to decide what this means to me – In Basket
• I might need to know this information – Reference Material
• I use it – Equipment and Supplies
• I like to see it – Decoration
• I’ve committed to this and need to be reminded – Project List (review weekly)
• I need to have this when I focus on a project – Support Material
• I might want to commit to this at some time in the future – Someday Maybe List
• I might want to commit to this after a specific future date – Calendar
• Its something someone else is doing that I care about – Waiting For List (review weekly)
• I need it when I do certain recurring activities – Checklist

I’m going to try this system for a few weeks and see if it helps. I’m thinking that a system like this might work on my e-files as well as my paper files. Staying on top of it all is a challenge I want to master. Maybe some of it is letting go of the idea that everything is well organized – and trusting that I will find something when I need it if it really matters. Back again to my favourite complexity truism – Trust the Process.