Wednesday, April 28, 2010

On Organization

I have spent too much time organizing the wrong parts of my life.

I used to keep my inbox in Outlook immaculate—zero unread items, everything meticulously categorized and filed. But I rarely went back and looked for items by categories of folders, I almost always searched for it. So I stopped. Now I keep a “Recent Unread” folder that is a view on the items still requiring attention that have come in during the last week or so. If it doesn’t make it into an action item by that time, then it falls out of scope, and I don’t have to care.

I used to store my receipts immaculately. Scan them all in, and then shred the paper, giving them proper file names so they’d sort by date. But I never looked back on them. Now I scan them batches every few months, still grouped by debtor, sort of lazily dumped in a folder.

Same with my business reimbursement expenses. They’re almost always PDF attachments on emails (hotels, airfare, etc), and I used to save them off and rename them into a convention. But for what? Now I copy the whole email into a folder by expense period—much less work, and still easily retrievable when the occasional audit comes through.

If I need to look back, yes, it will take a little more effort, but I so rarely look back. It’s worth the net savings to have to work a little harder when I look back than it is to immaculately organize something I’ll so rarely need to take advantage of. That time is better spent elsewhere, like posting on my blog.

What do you over-organize? Where could you shift the time burden to lookup instead of storage, and net time savings?

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