Write an Operating System for Your Brain

Jan 1, 2017 by

Let’s face it. We all have to interact with organizations and systems of relationships in which we might not “fit” perfectly. We can choose to stay and try to thrive, or leave and find another path. Both are valid options. If you are choosing to stay, you will likely have to make minor (or sometimes major) tweaks to how you interact and function within that system. It is unreasonable to expect a system with thousands of employees or a family with 4 people in it to all change and adapt to you when you are unwilling to make changes to adapt to it.

What if you began approaching your brain like a computer system? Suppose you could load in a set of operating instructions at the beginning of every day to govern how you operate in the world around you. As you find “bugs” (character flaws) in your system, suppose you could write new code to help you begin to correct those bugs. I think we can actually do this.

Computers boot up with an operating system that tells the hardware (printer, mouse, monitor, etc.) how to function and runs the software apps. The operating system is the first program the computer loads when you turn it on. In a sense, the operating system directs everything else in the computer system.

You can write a personal operating system (POS) that directs your physical and mental functioning. The POS can be a very powerful tool to help you change behavior that is holding you back in your professional and personal life.

Here’s the basic idea:

  1. Write a set of instructions (the POS) that you want to be your governing principles.
  2. Read the POS every morning out loud.
  3. Each evening before bed, celebrate the wins from the day as you reread the POS.

Aspirational Lines of Code

Since this is you talking to your own body and brain, it’s important that you are kind to yourself. Negative instructions tend to focus on past behavior. The personal operating system should be a set of instructions on what TO do in the present and future. The instructions you give yourself every day should be affirming and aspirational. Any instruction can be written in a negative or positive way.

Here’s a line of code for running your brain:

Negative code: Don’t brag.
Positive code: Be humble.

And another line of code for running your body:

Negative code: Don’t eat crap.
Positive code: Choose healthy food.

A personal operating system should consist of approximately 5-15 lines of code that set up instructions for your brain and body. Here are several lines of code from the personal operating system I used last year, when I worked with a very large team in a leadership position:

Schedule impulsive things.
Support the leaders around you.
Focus on the big deliverables.
Give everyone a chance to shine.
Communicate down as well as up.
Do something scary every day.

The goal for a personal operating system is to create a set of reminders that become so well-known to you that they pop up in your mind when you are confronted with situations that run counter to your operating system.

Writing the First Draft of your POS

How do you go about creating your own personal operating system?

There are several questions you can use for reflection that will give you a good first draft:

  1. If I were to ask people around you to describe you, what would you want them to say about you?
  2. What are the characteristics of the people you you admire and look to as role models?
  3. What are the character flaws that are keeping you from moving up or into new roles at work?
  4. What are the character flaws that are keeping you from having more meaningful relationships with your partner, children, or friends?

As you identify flaws, remember that you need to find ways to write affirming statements (not negative ones) for the operating system.

Getting Feedback on the POS

This may be too scary for your first POS, and if that’s the case, just skip this step. However, it can be a really valuable way to nail the instructions that will be the most powerful in transforming yourself.

To get feedback on your draft POS, you want to identify 2-5 trusted people (friends, family members, or former work colleagues) that will read the POS and tell you what you’re missing. Ask them questions like:

  1. What is holding me back at work?
  2. What is holding me back from deepening our relationship?
  3.  What should be on this list that isn’t?

Approach the feedback you get with this mindset: I will listen to what they say without argument.

Now revise your POS in a way that you think is appropriate. You can take it or leave it with respect to the feedback you got, but you did ask for it, so I’d consider taking it if you truly asked people you trusted.

Finalize the POS

As you get the POS ready to be used, consider how it should be written on paper. Do you want your POS to be loaded from shortest statement to longest statement?

Be humble.
Choose healthy foods.
Schedule impulsive things.
Focus on the big deliverables.
Do something scary every day.
Support the leaders around you.
Give everyone a chance to shine.
Communicate down as well as up.

Does it make more sense to you to group the POS so that personal and work goals are separated?

Be humble.
Choose healthy foods.
Do something scary every day.

Schedule impulsive things.
Focus on the big deliverables.
Support the leaders around you.
Give everyone a chance to shine.
Communicate down as well as up.

Or maybe it makes more sense to you to organize the list so that the hardest instructions always come first.

Be humble.
Choose healthy foods.
Focus on the big deliverables.
Schedule impulsive things.

Do something scary every day.
Support the leaders around you.
Give everyone a chance to shine.
Communicate down as well as up.

Finalize the order. Print the list (you may need a few copies depending on your morning and evening routines). You might want to laminate the list (packing tape works well), mount it on cardboard, decorate it, or do something else to make it feel more like a permanent structure in your life. It’s your POS, figure out what makes sense to you.

Loading the POS in the Morning

The POS will only work if you actually READ it every morning. So you have to find a place to put it where you will have the time to read the list out loud with minimal disruption to your normal routine. Try to think of a time when you’ll be likely to be able to read the list. For me, the ideal time is when I’m drying my hair, so my list is in the bathroom. For you it could be while you wait for your coffee to brew, when you are making your breakfast, or while you drive to work.

Find a home for your POS, and make it a part of your routine to read the list of instructions every morning.

Reread the POS in the Evening

Now find a time in the evening that you can skim your list and celebrate the wins and small corrections you made during the day. Again, the bathroom might be the right place (I reflect while I brush my teeth). You don’t want to beat yourself up if you didn’t manage to execute all your instructions. The goal is to find where an instruction did actually lead you to a new behavior during the day. You want your mind to begin to deliver the correct instruction at the moment you need to hear it. For example, at the moment that you are about to brag about an accomplishment at work, “Be humble.” floats into your mind and you congratulate the team on a job well done instead of bragging. That’s a win to be celebrated at the end of the day.

Of course, you might also identify moments in the day where you could have done better, and that’s okay. You simply need to acknowledge them, and then dismiss them with the thought that you’ve now recognized these types of moments and can improve another day.

Tuning Up the POS

As time passes and jobs and relationships change, your POS will need tuning up. Don’t operate on an old POS when your life has had significant changes. The example POS I’ve shared makes little sense now that I’m self-employed and no longer working with an enormous organization with a large team to manage. I’ve revised it. You should too as your situation changes.

I would love to compile a list of instructions that people can choose from to write a POS. What are some of the “lines of code” you’re writing into your own personal operating system?

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Steal Back Your Time and Accomplish Your Goals

Nov 14, 2016 by

I began a “sabbatical” from regular work-for-someone-else life about a month ago. I work from home. I have a startup. I want to accept just enough work to get by financially (but not more than that). I want to achieve that some kind of illusion of work-life balance. I want to exercise more. I have several passion projects that I’ve wanted to spend time on for a very very long time.

If you’ve ever had a period of time like this (or if you just work remotely), you know that finding some kind of structure to your hours, days, weeks, and projects can be daunting. If you’re not careful, you always feel guilty about what you’re doing. I spent two years working remotely for a European company, and found that tracking the hours I actually worked was helpful for bringing balance to the remote working life. But I hate bookkeeping and so I evolved a simple system of moving glass pebbles for each hour I worked during the week.

Now I’ve modified this system to include a breakdown of how I want to spend my hours, and specific goals I have. At the beginning of the week, I have a clean slate for hours/goals I want to accomplish (and it can vary from week to week):

fluid-work-full-slate

The full slate for last week included three exercise goals (hit daily step goal, meditation/yoga three times, strength training three times). Also in the work-life-balance category, I had a personal writing goal of 6 hours a week. You can see the bulk of my time for the week should be spent in working on the startup (roughly 3 hours a day) and accumulating some billable hours (roughly 4 hours a day).

As each day progresses, I simply move the right “pebbles” into the accomplishments for the day. This creates a nice feeling of accomplishment, and as I look back over the week, I can see the patterns to my days. Here are 4 days from last week.

fluid-work-4-days

When I’m not feeling very “work” productive, I simply focus on getting other goals I can accomplish until I feel more productive. On some days that means I can absolutely justify going for an hour-long walk outside in the sunshine, because I have a step goal to reach. Other days (like today) it means permission to spend an hour writing a blog post (personal writing). Sometimes, the pebbles validate my feeling of not being productive enough, and motivate me to do better. Other times, the pebbles show me that I’m spending too much time on a particular project and ignoring other places where I need to focus my attention.

I’ve tried using apps for doing something like this (HabitBull is a good one), but I find that an app is too easy to ignore. If I put the collection of pebbles for weekly hours and goals somewhere visible, it is a daily reminder of what I want to be doing with my time and helps me to meet those goals.

I think this same sort of strategy can be helpful for anyone who is trying to steal back their time to reach a goal, whether that be studying for a degree, trying to meet an exercise/diet goal, writing a book, or spending time with your family. We live in an age of distraction. You have to actively steal back your time from the Internet and digital distractions in your life to accomplish your goals.

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Self Evaluation: List of Fives

Jun 6, 2012 by

"Fives" by Leo Reynolds

Whenever I hire a new assistant, I have a list of questions I ask to get a feel for how we can best work together.  I want to make sure I take advantage of their strengths and provide them the opportunity for growth.  I think that good working relationships are developed when each person’s skills are valued and when they can learn about the things that they enjoy.

So, I’ve developed my “List of Fives” to feel out the strengths and growth areas for someone I’m going to work with, and I try to use it to help us to take advantage of synergy whenever possible.

1. What are your five biggest strengths?

2. What are five things that you enjoy learning about?

3. What are five topics you’d like to learn about that are unfamiliar to you?

4. What are five skills or strengths that you’d like to get better at?

5. What are your five favorite sources of inspiration? [books/websites/articles/poems/videos/songs]

As a little reflective exercise today. I answered these questions for myself today.

1. What are your five biggest strengths?

Innovation
Communicator/Explainer/Speaker
Organization
Problem Solving
Knowledge of Ed Tech Space

2. What are five things that you enjoy learning about?

Science of Learning
Learning Analytics
Social Media
Game Design
Data Visualization

3. What are five topics you’d like to learn about that are unfamiliar to you?

User Interface Design
PHP or WordPress coding
Science/History of Futuring
Science of Multiple Choice Testing
Artificial Intelligence for Learning

4. What are five skills or strengths that you’d like to get better at?

Patience
Leadership / Managing a large team
Fundraising / Raising capital
Conflict management (just not much experience)
Contract negotiation (no experience)

5. What are your five favorite sources of inspiration? [books/websites/articles/poems/videos/songs]

My Twitter network
TED
Book: Theory of Fun for Game Design
Magazine: Technology Review
Magazine: Wired

It’s an interesting little exercise to help you to see whether your current job is actually utilizing your skills and providing you with growth, isn’t it?

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Turning Ideas into Action

Apr 18, 2012 by

At the moment when a person becomes inspired to make a change, how can an organization support him or her to make that change in their life or to facilitate that change in the lives of others?

Yesterday, during a conversation with my new friend Holly (who also happens to be my doppelganger), I had an inspiration on how to accomplish this.  It’s an idea inspired by the collision of several others:  A Recipe for Free Range Learning, my experiments with SpacedEd (now Qstream), my long ago experience with Flylady, the concepts of Optimism Bias and activation energy (from the Happiness Advantage), and the “Learn This” Button.

But before I explain the idea, I also have to preserve the story here, because it’s really eerie.  On Monday night, my husband tagged me in a picture and added the caption “Must … stop … self … from participating in more projects.  Must keep ideas at bay.”  For a minute, I believed it was me in the picture.  But then I realized I hadn’t met a single person in the group of people in the picture.  So, it wasn’t me … but darned if it didn’t look like me.  It was really bizarre.

 

So on Tuesday, I decided to try to identify the “doppelganger” because she had fooled both my husband and myself with her uncanny resemblance.  Lo and behold, when I walked into the Summit Lounge, the same group of people were assembled in a circle having a conversation about one of the actions.  I identified the one that looked like me, and made a mental note to find her later.  In the opening talk, she walked into the venue and sat down right next to me.  I introduced myself and explained that she and I might be doppelgangers (at least from the side profile).

So we started chatting between talks and one thing let to another.  Before long, we were talking about the Action Team she was involved with, and she expressed frustration that they seemed to be stuck.  When she explained what they were trying to do, something from the previous nights’ talks collided just so with a collection of talks and writings from the past, and a clear path to a solution presented itself.  I shared it with Holly, and she agreed that it was a really great solution to the constraints of their problem space: How to turn ideas into action.  I suppose that Holly and I were fated to meet, that she was meant to pose this problem to me, and I was meant to generate a solution out of the myriad of random stuff running around in my head.

Because I’ve been asked to share this strategy at least a half-dozen times in the  last 24 hours, it seems work writing down in its entirety to preserve the original details.  The fundamental idea is to treat each desired behavioral /action change as fusion of two streams: an action stream and a social coaching stream.  Together, this blends to form a set of instructions and the spice for a sort of “action recipe.”  Suppose that Holly has just watched an amazing TED video about using less plastic waste, and she wants to take action.

(1) At the moment of inspiration (in this case, the viewing of a TED or TEDx Talk), Holly should have the option to “make a change” or take action” on the screen.

(2) Now she has to decide the size of the impact she wants to make.  Ideally, the system would suggest starting small (unless Holly has already taken this action on a smaller level). In the recipe analogy, this is essentially answering the question, “How many cooks are there?”

  • One (individual – I want to take action on myself)
  • Several (family or a small group of friends)
  • Many (an organization or business)
  • Everyone  (community – I want everyone I can affect to take this action with me)

(3)  Suppose Holly does as suggested, and chooses to “start small” with just one cook.  Now she would see the recipes written by others who have tagged their action recipes as being linked to this video [note that speakers would be encouraged to write a few recipes if they are speaking about something that is action-appropriate]. Her choices might look something like this:

  • Cut down on the amount of plastic bottles you purchase
  • Recycle more of the plastic in your life
  • [FLIPPED] Recycle more of the plastic in your life in a town without recycling
  • [FLIPPED] Recycle more of the plastic in your life in Bulgaria

(4) Holly can click on multiple options on the list (to compare them) and then click on “See ingredients.”  The ingredients list would simply tell her what kinds of resources she would need to have or purchase to carry out the action.  For example, in order to cut down on the amount of purchased plastic, Holly would need to find or purchase two water bottles (one for home and one for work).

(5) Holly chooses the second option.  Now she is asked how she’d like to receive her coaching:

  • SMS Texting
  • Email
  • Mobile App

(5) Holly chooses to receive her coaching by SMS, so she follows the directions to set this up, and then the action begins with the first of 30 daily  texts (the number of messages would vary based on the type of action and chosen level of impact.

“This is your action coach.  The most important thing to do for the next 30 days is keep your water bottle full and in a place where you are likely to grab it when you’re thirsty. Today is your first day of change! Congratulations!”

The second day (and for every day after that for a month), Holly would receive a little message, reminding her to stay on track, and encouraging her to send data back to a global database:

“This is your action coach. How many times did you use your water bottle since my last text?  Please reply with the number times you’ve filled up your bottle. Don’t forget keep your water bottle full and in a place where you are likely to grab it when you’re thirsty.”

This string of 30 (or so) messages would be a fixed set of action instructions, written by the author of the recipe.  Now for the social coaching aspect. In combination with these messages (a la flylady), the system would provide coaching in real time.  For example, Holly replies to the last text with the number “3” … now the system adds her 3 refills to the global count and sends her words of encouragement.

“Wow! Yesterday, a total of 468 water bottles were refilled by people trying to make this change.  That’s a total of 468 water bottles that were not purchased. Collectively, that means you saved the energy equivalent of about 3.5 gallons of gasoline. Keep up the good work!”

Another type of social coaching might be inspirational stories, curated by someone keeping an eye on this set of recipes and receiving feedback from those who are nearing the end of their behavioral change.

“Looking for some inspiration to keep your change going? How about watching the short 8-minute film “The Story of Water Bottles while you take a water break today!”

So, fast forward to the end of Holly’s 30-day individual action.  During this whole time, she has received 1-2 text messages a day. Always an action prompt, often an inspirational prompt of some sort as well.  Every newbie to the action starts on Day 1 of the action prompts, but they just pick up the inspirational social coaching on whatever the coach is pushing out (news stories, facts, global stats for the change project, etc.)

(6) At the end of 30 days, Holly is asked to rate the recipe on a scale of 1-5 (good recipes should eventually rise to the top based on rating and number of times it has been used).

(7) Now the system encourages Holly to consider helping others to make the change.  “Would you like to try to influence others to make this change?  Your family, your friends, where you work, or your community?”  If Holly chooses to “level up” then she subscribes to a new recipe.  She is also asked if she’d like to tweak the recipe to make it better (she can “flip” the recipe into a recipe of her own making for a particular audience, perhaps she wants to customize it for teachers, for example)

Recipes at different impact levels would have different ingredients lists, different time frames, and different actions.  For example, if you want to change your organization, it would be incredibly important to get buy-in from a leader in the organization.  So a first step might be to make an appointment with two potential “champions” for the cause, and show them the video that inspired you.

Of course, recipes would be tagged for keywords and to link them to particular content (videos, books, etc.)

It is, in my opinion, crucial that the behavior change involves a “push” of coaching to the participant (too easy to forget you meant to change) and that it includes not just an action process, but a personal element of coaching.

Now … I’m tired and that’s all I’m writing about this tonight, because I need to get at least ONE night of solid sleep at this incredibly awesome TEDxSummit event.

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Sanity in the Age of Digital Overload

Aug 16, 2011 by

I often conduct a workshop called “Organize Your Digital Self” and the last section of the workshop is on staying sane in a world with so many ways to go into digital overload.  Here are a few of my favorites apps and programs for staying sane:

StayFocusd is a Chrome Extension that lets you choose websites (like Facebook or casual games sites) that you want to limit your time on.  You decide how much time is enough, and then StayFocusd will warn you when you’re getting close to your limit and cut you off for the day once you’ve surpassed it.  Sure, you can open another browser, but if the point is to be more cognizant of how you’re wasting time, it does a good job reminding you.

WorkRave is  designed to help prevent repetitive stress injuries (like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome) but it also works very well to force you to take a break.  If you’re one of those people that can sit for hours working at the computer without even realizing that an hour has gone by, try a program like WorkRave.  You can decide how long you want to work in one sitting, how long you want to break, and how long you want your “snooze” to be before you really have to take that break.  Use your break times to talk to your family, spend time with your pets, go breath in some fresh air, get the mail, etc. The point is to force yourself to get up from your computer and do something else.  I’d experiment with the optimum continuous focused work time – for some it is 45 min, for others it is 90 minutes.

RescueTime is a bit like having your very own “big brother.”  Once you install it, it can track how much time you spend where on your computer (not just the Internet, but also your desktop, Windows or Mac).  So if you think you’re spending 3 hours a day answering email, it can verify that or it might tell you that the 3 hours is actually spent in Farmville.  RescueTime can also block distracting sites, so you can kill two birds with one stone – track time and block sites that are wasting time.  If you’re into the Quantified Self movement or you want students to track some data of their own for a project, the time-tracking reports and graphs from RescueTime are great (see video RescueTime Reports).  To measure just your online activities, there is now a RescueTime Chrome Extension too.

Part of staying sane is not becoming distracted and following link after link “down the rabbit hole” of time suck.  Readability is a great little browser extension for Chrome, Safari, or Firefox.  Their mission? “With one click, turn any webpage into a clean comfortable reading view.” Not only does Readability strip out all the extra links and advertisements on an article you’re trying to read, but it allows you to set your preferences for margins, background, text color, font, font size, columns, and more.  Subscribers to Readability can save web articles for later reading, send articles to a mobile device, and sync with Kindle.  The video that follows is a 1-minute tour of Readability.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Dropbox, which is one of those programs that has changed my workflow and contributed greatly to my ease of mind.  This is one that you will have to pay for if you want more than 2 GB of space (and trust me, you will).  Here’s the idea: if you’re working on multiple computer systems, dropbox makes a file folder on each computer and a mirror image of that folder “in the cloud.”   Whatever you drop into the folder on your computer, that file is mirrored in your Dropbox account in the cloud and then on the other computers synced to your account.  The beauty of this is that you can edit a file on your home computer, close it, drive to work, and after you boot up the computer there, the new version of the file will be sitting in the Dropbox on that computer.  You can also access any of the files in your Dropbox on any computer and on mobile devices by logging in to your Dropbox account.  This is invaluable when you suddenly have to present off someone else’s computer.  The ease of mind comes from knowing that if a disaster occurs and all your computers are lost, the Dropbox with all your important stuff will still be sitting there in the cloud waiting for you.  Dropbox has gotten some negative press lately over encryption practices, but the reality is that their encryption practices are better than most of our private security practices (if your work requires a security clearance, try another system).

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Digital Decluttering: Sort those files!

Jan 11, 2010 by

oyds_blog_button

This is Part 2 of a series on how to Organize Your Digital Self.  To view all posts in this series, go here.

My guess is that you manage to accumulate piles of paper in your office, in your home, or maybe even in your car (I accumulate paper in all three places).  At least once a year I attempt to get to the bottom of these stacks and put everything away (this creates clean space to begin accumulating new stacks!).   The goal of file organization would be to create a system for organizing these “stacks” that is so natural to use, that it’s just as easy to put away the paper as it is to stack the papers.

Ironically, sometimes the best way to find that natural system of organization is to first accumulate a “stack.”   After looking through all the crap stuff you accumulate over a period of time, you can start to get a sense for what the natural categorization is.   Sort the “stack” into smaller stacks, and group those according to theme, and re-sort if necessary.

On a computer, we accumulate these “paper stacks” in a slightly different form … files.  If you’ve been accumulating random files on your desktop, or in a folder labeled “Junk”, then I would like to congratulate you on your forward thinking.  You were obviously just gathering these together to help you establish a natural computer file organization system.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it: Restructure all the really important files you regularly access, plus all those miscellaneous files you’ve been accumulating in computer piles, into (at most) ten file folders.  Bonus points for you if you install a sync / backup for these ten folders while you’re at it.

Why 10 and not more than 10?  You need to have a small enough group of folders that you can see all of them at once.  It needs to be a short enough list that you remember and regularly use all the folders in the list.  Why?  Because if you don’t regularly use a folder, you’ll forget you have it and end up creating a duplicate folder (or subfolder) to gather files.  This might not seem horribly problematic, but as you start to split the files into two locations, you’ll start to lose track of where you’ve put things.

file_organization3

If your computer has been accumulating files for as long as mine has, you’ll need some ground rules to get started on the herculean task or organizing those unruly files.

  1. Create as many sorting folders as you want to at first. Every time you find at least five related items, put them in a folder together.  These folders may eventually turn out to be subfolders of some larger category, but for now, just sort.
  2. Don’t open the files. Create temporary storage folders called Unfiled.  and No Idea.  This initial sort is a little like that first sort on the show Clean Sweep.  It’s not the time to worry about perfectly sorting every file.  When you honestly have no idea what a file is, put it in No Idea.  If you know you should keep it, but you don’t know how to categorize it, put it in Unfiled.  You may also use Unfiled when you just get tired of sorting, and want to just throw everything left into a folder.  As files begin to accumulate in the Unfiled folder, you’ll find that they start to group together naturally into categories.

file_organization1

There are some visual ways to make file-sorting easier. For example, you can change the way you view the files.  For some types of files (document files), it’s probably easier to see them in a list view.  For other types of files (images), icons are preferable for easy sorting.

file_organization6_list_view

file_organization5_large_icons

In the Detail View, you can click on the column headers to sort (ascending or descending) by that property.

file_organization9_sort_by_size

When you’re done with the primary sort, you should have a collection of miscellaneous folders.  Now you have to look for ways to organize those folders into larger, all-encompassing categories.

I found that I had a lot of folders with specific conference information (proposals, acceptance letters, travel requests, presentations, and notes), so I created a superfolder called Conferences to house all those smaller folders.  Each subfolder is then relabeled in a way that makes them easy to find.  In this case, it’s the name of the conference, year, and location.

file_organization8_folders

I’m not going to lie … this task is likely going to take you a while.  However, if you’re like me, it’s been on your list of  things to do (aka “things you’ll never get to”) for a while.  Well, there’s no time like the present.  And, you can say that I ordered you to do it!

Don’t get caught up into the black hole of opening files and cleaning up the files themselves.  For example, I had to resist the urge to create a database of all my test questions.  I also had to resist the urge to rename all the files in a similar format.  Just don’t go there! At least … not this week.  All you do this week is sort.

When you’re completely done with your 10-folder mission, consider making this the time in your life to sync your computer systems once and for all.   A good syncing program will also create an automatic backup system for your important files.  Let me see if I can explain (easily) how a sync works.

I have two computers: Home and Work.  I’d also want an Internet backup so that (a) I have copies of files if anything happens to the computers and (b) I can access the files from someone else’s computer if necessary.  I pay for a program called Dropbox.  On each computer, there is a “My Dropbox” folder with the exact same set of files.  This “My Dropbox” folder is also on the Internet (accessed with a username & password).  When I make a change to a file on my home computer, it syncs this change to the Internet, and the next time my work computer is on, it picks up the change and saves it on that computer too.  It’s not the entire computer that’s synced, it’s just this particular folder.  There are some kinds of files that you may not want to sync (i.e. personal financial information, student grades, etc.).  Just leave these files in a folder outside of the dropbox.

file_organization2

What’s the real advantage of a sync between computers?  No more duplicate files.  You will never again open a file, only to discover that it’s the version from several weeks ago instead of yesterday’s version.  That’s just awesome.

One word of caution.  Once you have a sync established, tackle the file sorting at a reasonable pace (go for 15 minutes at a time, instead of a massive 4-hour sorting session).  If you sort and rename too many files too fast, your sync (on multiple machines) may not be able to keep up with you (or, ignore my advice and learn this the hard way).

So, find those orphaned files, and give yourself 15 minutes every day to do nothing but sort those files.   If you have additional tips about ways you’ve found to sort piles o’ files, please comment them in!

You have a week to get this task done before we move on to the next Organize Your Digital Self (OYDS) task.  New assignments will post each Monday.  This is just the tip of the digital decluttering iceberg.

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