Scott Hanselman

Personal Systems of Organization

September 30, 2005 Comment on this post [0] Posted in Subversion | Tools
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A number of folks up at the Summit this week have noticed me "syncing to paper." Folks who know me think I'm uber-technical, but there's a comfort in using paper.

Lots of folks use a HipsterPDA (DIY Planner) or have heard of it. Others are enthusiastic about their Moleskine, or as I like to say, the "iPod of Journals."

My basic system of personal organization is this and has 'Analog' and 'Digital' facets:

  • Very Short Term (A few days)
    • Analog - I have a tiny single sheet of paper, folded in a special way from
      • I use it for quick notes, small calendars, randomness, etc. I use it with a Fisher SpacePen not only because the SpacePen is the smallest and best pen out there, but also because it expands via it's cap to a full size and comfortable length.
      • The key with this piece of paper is the ease at which I can make another and toss this one. I go through about two a week with only on existing at any time.
      • It's tiny and along with the pen, fits in my pocket. That combo beats any PDA out there (unless eInk makes a 2x3 PDA one day)
    • Digital - I have a crapload of email in my Blackberry. As my Inbox is The One True Inbox, I email myself to create todos/tasks/reminders. These tasks are then filed using the "Short Term" system below.
  • Short Term (A week to a month)
    • Analog - I use a Moleskine small Pocket Ruled Notebook, but there's a number of wonderful options.
      • This is a high quality, very portable notebook with a hard cover that reminds one of its value, both monetarily and emotionally. It's actually not that expensive, but it's of high enough quality that you wouldn't want to lose it.
      • For some pages, I print out templates from the DIYPlanner and tape them into the Moleskine.
      • I use the Covey Quadrant System for organizing most Todos.
      • Time-specific Appointments are "sync'ed" (copied manually) to Outlook, see below.
    • Digital - I use Project-specific Outlook Folders along with ones called Action, Deferred, Waiting For. My system is Do It, Delegate It, Defer It, Drop It.
      • I have currently zero emails in my Outlook Inbox, reaching ZEB at least weekly. Thanks Omar!
      • I have a folder called Shared Desktop that is sync'ed to three machines using FolderShare. Whatever I'm working on (non-code) goes in that folder, and is available everywhere.
      • My calendar in Outlook is sync'ed between work (Exchange) and home (PST) and wirelessly to my Blackberry. It's always up-to-date, and is made public (save private appts) to folks at work.
      • I use CVS at home at CVS/SubVersion at work for all code and/or versioned documents.
  • Long Term (Months to one year)
    • Analog - I use the 43 Folders system from Getting Things Done.
      • This means there are 31 folders, labeled 1 to 31, one for each day. There are 12 folders labeled with the months.
      • These sit in a small plastic folder holder from Office Depot. The result is a "circular" buffer where I can put reminders. I've got itineraries for trips I've got scheduled in March, I've got reminders like 'Buy furnace filter." This is a place I check daily to be reminded of something. When the day folder is empty, I move it to the back and it becomes a day in the next month.
    • Digital - I've got a RAID Array at home, along with FolderShare and a REV Drive.
      • This combo keeps long term information always available but always backed up. The REV disks are taken to the safety deposit box quarterly.

Nutshell, the single sheet of paper -> notebook -> outlook and the circle of life continues.

Update: In a nice moment of synchronicity, I notice that Andy uses a SpacePen and PocketMod as well!

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.