Wednesday, October 13, 2004

(My own personal paradigm shift)

Originally posted: Wed, 13 Oct 2004 07:27:22

This weekend I had the realization that I haven't been managing projects well. So I'm in the middle of a paradigm shift. If you had looked at my computer and handheld on Friday, you might have been struck by the elaborate Aristotelian directory structure; same with my email program, in which I have carefully stored every piece of email since spring 1999. Same with my handheld, which not only had a dozen categories for pigeonholing events and todos, but also had an elaborate directory structure in its own right. But these categories, which I had conceived as ways to manage my data and my projects, were actually fragmenting my data and projects pretty severely. I could see parts, but not the whole picture. That played havoc not just with my personal projects but also with my delegation at the CWRL.

I seriously considered project management software, like Entourage, that would give me back the whole picture. But after test-driving Entourage, I rejected it: it basically did what I was doing already, throwing things into containers. Entourage might have allowed me to scale up, but ...

But when I want something on the web, I do what everyone else does. I Google it. Or I Clusty it. The last thing I want to do is go to a category-based site like Yahoo. So why not take that search paradigm and apply it to the rest of my life?

So I took a second look at some software my wife had asked me to test earlier this month. Instead of using MacJournal for notes -- a great program that allows you to store text notes in categories -- I transferred everything to Notational Velocity, a fantastic app that allows you to find-as-you-type (kind of like how your browser tries to guess the URL as you type it in). No categories, just searching. I downloaded Quicksilver, a launcher app that allows me to find any document or app by name and launch it -- just hit ctrl-spacebar, find-as-you-type, then hit return. All documents went into my Documents folder; the elaborate file structure went away. Same with my email client, which now has only a few basic categories rather than hundreds; it has an elaborate search engine built in.

Same story on my handheld. I deleted all the categories -- they don't sync with iCal anyway, for some reason. And I rediscovered the search function on my iPaq, which is actually quite well developed.

For more elaborate project management, I now use a spreadsheet. Projects in column 1; concrete steps in column 2; delegation, if necessary, in column 3; target date in column 4. The spreadsheet transfers to my iPaq too. The concrete steps can be copied and pasted into the todo list if appropriate, but I suspect that won't have to be done very often.

I'm also beginning to read 43 Folders, a site which someone (I forget who) recently described as time management porn.

This really is a significant change for me; let's see how it works out.

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