Scott Hanselman

Personal Systems of Organization

October 01, 2005 Comment on this post [12] 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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October 01, 2005 7:47
It's posts like this that make love reading blogs! Great work Scott, this information is very valuable and I'm going to integrate pieces of it into my own personal organization habits.
October 01, 2005 22:37
Which Space Pen is it? There are so many models!
October 02, 2005 15:49
I'm interested in which space pen you use as well. And is the ink washable off clothing?
October 03, 2005 0:15
I use the "Shiny Chrome Bullet Space Pen," stock number 400. (
October 03, 2005 5:22
I thought I was cool using the Levenger Leather cover for lab books... I'm going to check out the moleskine for sure. Barnes and Noble right? I don't know if I can give up my gel Uniball. I like the pocket mod too. That might be fun too. I've used a hybrid of 43 folders for awhile and it sure helps keep things moving. Good stuff all wrapped up into action steps. LOVE IT, Jack
October 03, 2005 10:48
Fly Virgin Altantic..

you get one of those pens in the Upper Class amenity kit. I've found they fit inside a standard folding wallet very nicely.

course, it *might* be cheaper just to buy one, but then it would have a little plane on it, would it?
October 03, 2005 20:46
jack klompus gave me my astronaut pen...

btw scott, your blog is probably one of the funniest, funnest and funkiest i've read in quite some time! kudos...

October 03, 2005 22:01
The pocketmod is the ultimate! Thank you, thank you, thank you. I've forever been using post-its to keep to-dos and such. Not the easiest way to keep notes as they crumble up in my shirt pocket and they get destroyed when I stick them in my pants pocket. This adds a whole wealth of information to a simple 2x3 sheet. Ugh, I can't get over how cool this is!!
October 04, 2005 0:45
Great post. PocketMod is absolutely awesome, as is the pen. The one thing that I was a little confused about is you say that you have Action, Deferred, Waiting For folders but then you go on to say that you use Do It, Delegate It, Defer It, and Drop It. Which is it, or do you use a combination of the two?
October 04, 2005 21:40
I use a Brushed Chrome Space Pen w/clip & PocketMod, and I agree its by far the best for simple todo's
October 10, 2005 21:07
What are you using to sync your work and home calendars?
October 10, 2005 21:10's brilliant.

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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.