Understanding Your Information
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Every year or so, I make a significant change in the way I organize my information. I've just completed one such reorganization and I decided I'd share some of my thoughts.
Understanding and Classifying My Information
What really prompted me to reorganize was "random" information... useful knowledge I find as I do my daily reading -- in articles, email newsletters, or Web sites.
I realized that my system for organizing information was better suited for information I actively gathered and not for the information that randomly landed on my desk.
For example, if it was time to print manuals or brochures, I'd shop around for prices. Check out local printers, search the Web for good prices, ask friends where they do their printing, etc. All of this information I'd place in a printing document in my askSam Project database. This worked well, but if I had received an email three months prior talking about printing, it wouldn't help me.
This is what prompted me to re-think my organization, but it was only the beginning. I began thinking of how I could categorize my information. I wanted to create a hierarchy for information that corresponded to the way I work. I was surprised at how easy it was to breakdown my many activities and tasks into basic categories. For me these categories are:
Management / Administrative
MyStuff / Personal
under each of these categories, I have further categories, for example under Development, I have
Developer's Meeting Agenda
and I have further categories under some of these items. My top level categories (Management, Sales, Marketing, etc.) stay constant, but I add sub-categories as necessary.
The categories I've chosen reflect my job and the information I encounter. To make this system work for you, look at your information and come up with a hierarchy that fits you.
Organizing My Information In askSam
Once I had decided on the structure, I found it was very easy to create a system in askSam that allowed me to organize my information.
I created two askSam databases:
1) PROJECTS.ASK - a database containing all the information pertaining to the projects that are currently active.
2) NOTES.ASK - a database containing the random information I encounter.
I use the same hierarchy in both databases, the real difference is that the PROJECTS file contains projects that I'm actively working whereas the NOTES file contains facts, figures, and information that may be useful in the future.
The structure of my documents is very simple.
Each document contains fields for Title, Category and Sub-category. I also have included links back to the top level categories in the Entry Form. This makes it easy to navigate from any record in the file to the top level category documents.
The hierarchy I've defined has made it easier for me to file away bits of information and find them. Of course, not everything fits neat and tidy into my categories so I've had to search a few times to find pieces of information. I've also linked some documents under multiple categories.
I've been using this new system for several weeks now, and I like the way it's working. Interestingly enough, what really helped more than any anything else was examining my information. The more I looked and categorized the information, the easier it became for me to envision a system to organize it.
So take a close look at your information, it could be the first step toward better organization.
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