how to use GTD for computer files
November 27, 2005 11:16 AM   Subscribe

I use David Allen’s GTD (Getting Things Done) system along with other productivity styles similar to it and spawned from it. I’ve organized many things in my life, but my computer files are still all over the place and don’t seem to have the same logic as my other implementations. I am curious if anyone has set up a GTD system for his or her computer files, or another system that works very well at retaining organization, short term and long term. I use Windows XP right now, but am curious about other operating systems as well such as Linux. I appreciate any tips or tricks that can be provided, thanks in advance.
posted by Knigel to Technology (8 answers total)
You might be interested in 43 Folders and its associated wiki, if you haven't seen them already.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 11:24 AM on November 27, 2005

Side note: I found a beautiful comment left by someone name evie on this page at 43Folders.
You know what I’ve realised reading this? My goal in life is not to be productive. The whole idea that I might be effective and efficient as a goal in life fills me with depression. I don’t want to be a good employee. I don’t want to wade through a mountain of tasks. I want to relax and enjoy my life.

I think I’m gonna spend a few extra minutes in the morning disarranging my closet and trying to look good. Then I might go outside and look at the trees. Maybe I’ll waste some time wandering around the shops looking for the perfect cookie ingredient for Christmas cookies. Hang out with my husband and watch Alias. You know. Inefficiently.

I’ve finished some big projects in my life, but they aren’t the soul and substance of my life. And sure you have to be disciplined to do some of the things that really matter - if you are committed to developing green energy sources, for example, it’s going to take some sustained effort. I just wonder if there isn’t a mania about organisation for organisation’s sake, just part of the pressure our employers put us under to help them achieve their reduced-cost employee bill.

Hope you guys are using the extra time you get from being organised to be disorganised.

posted by letitrain at 11:40 AM on November 27, 2005 [1 favorite]

I put *everything* in folders based on who (or what) it is for. The exceptions are pictures (which iPhoto manages), MP3s (which iTunes manages) and email, which I put in one folder that I run searches on.

As for evie, I like being organised because it means I don't suddenly freak out while lying on the couch because I've just remembered something vital. A small amount of organisation-time makes lots and lots of disorganised time far easier to get.

Organisation is just a better way of being lazy. Someone once said that lazy people are the best inventors, and sometimes end up working hardest, just to avoid doing the things they don't want to do. Organising, and tricks for it, are the best way of avoiding spending days "getting my shit together", and mean when someone asks if I can go out, I can always say "gin, please".
posted by bonaldi at 12:10 PM on November 27, 2005

This will help you to see the files. (the first step)
posted by JohnR at 4:26 PM on November 27, 2005

Instead of using bookmarks, you can drag the icon next to the URL icon to a folder on your hard drive, that way you have all your links and documents in the same folder.

You can put tags in your filenames so that they'll be easily searchable by any desktop search system, e.g. instead of "my letter.doc" call it "my letter (school writing homework).doc"

For my GTD system I use ToDoList (tasks, reminders) with Rainlendar (next action list, calendar)
posted by Sharcho at 4:45 PM on November 27, 2005

use folders. for everything. it's the best and easiest way to keep everything organised on your computer.

in your root drive, put a couple very general folders. i have "images", "backup" "music", "movies", "downloads (more on that later)", and things like that. then in each of those, put a few subfolders, and so on until you're down to very specific folders, where you put your actual files. i've found that it's confusing and bad practice to keep both files and subfolders within any given folder. put all files in a bottom subfolder.

the "downloads" folder is's just for temporary storage of files that i'm checking out and seeing if i want to keep. all incoming files go there. if i like it enough, it gets moved to a proper subfolder. otherwise, it gets deleted. the trick is to constantly go thru this folder so it doesn't become overwhelming.

files that need immediate attention go on the desktop (my desktop normally has no files or icons on it. i use a shortcut bar at the top of my screen for commonly-accessed folders and quicklaunch for applications).

once you have a system that works for you, it takes little effort to maintain it. i take satisfaction in the fact that if someone asks me for a file, i can usually produce it in seconds, without having to wade through a bunch of search results or preview a million word documents.

anyway, that's worked well for me. good file-naming conventions help, too. hope that helps.
posted by lohmannn at 7:39 PM on November 27, 2005

I use the same structure (and partition, for that matter) for both Linux and Windows:

A partition only for my files. You can start with one directory if you don't feel like going through the hassle of repartitioning.

One directory for personal, one for work, one for consulting, one for media. Also, one 'incoming' directory, where I download everything. If I run out of space, the incoming directory goes first. Anything that hasn't been categorized is gone. One 'keep' directory for things I download that I might need again, and probably won't be able to find.

Many, many directories under each. For instance: personal/financial/taxes/2004/2004_1040.pdf

Under Windows, I set the data partition to be my 'my documents' directory, and set up all applications to load and save there. Under Linux, I just link a 'data' subdirectory under /home/me.

I think the key is to point every application you use to the same place, and never use the defaults. I also find it helpful to create directories for future use, even if they might be empty for some time. Then there is no excuse for being lazy and saving everything in the same place.

I've been using the same system for years, and it is very easy to upgrade, switch operating systems, restore from backup, etc.

On preview, it looks like lohmannn and I are on the same page. I never use search, in fact I removed it from Windows.
posted by bh at 7:46 PM on November 27, 2005

Oh, and FWIW, I am one of those seemingly very disorganized people in the real world, but I can tell you that the charger for my cell phone from 5 years ago is in a white box, with a lot of other old chargers, in the far left corner of my shed, under a box of network cables, which is under another box full of old phone gear, all of which is resting on a plastic tub full of RJ-11 and RJ-45 plugs. Data organization is a hell of a lot easier than real world organization. I just wish the wife would realize I'm organized, just not in the way she thinks. :)
posted by bh at 7:52 PM on November 27, 2005

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