Let’s talk about digital organisation. For clarification we are talking about the act of being digitally organised not a digital organisation, in other words a company.
What is digital organisation
At its most simplistic Digital Organisation is the process you go through to get your computerised and online life in order. So a bit like a digital KonMarie, or whatever your preferred decluttering method is. Let’s think about the reasons why we declutter our physical space.
- To create more space
- To find things easier
- For a nicer aesthetic
- To remove what is no longer desirable
Well all of those reasons are every bit as justified when it comes to our digital lives. How often have you received a piece of information that felt like it might be important but you didn’t know when or why? Do you find yourself sticking post it notes to the site of your monitor? Is your email inbox numbers in double, or even treble digits? All of these may be indication that you would benefit from some digital organisation.
Where to start
I am a firm believer in Personal Knowledge Management which I explain in the blog post, and I don’t think you could go far wrong by reading that post first. If you want to organise your clothing there is a good chance you will look for something like this:
This AI generated wardrobe I rustled up (which I would love to magic into being in real life) shows that everything has it’s place and no space is wasted. You instinctively would know where to keep anything. Our digital lives are less obvious. It is not that we don’t have the tools but we are spoilt for choice.
Let’s look at the wardrobe above. It is plain to see that something has gone wrong if you suddenly find yourself putting cucumbers or a loaf or bread in there. With digital tools, many are created to be truly flexible and it would be very easy to put a chicken drumstick in a wardrobe and not bat an eyelid.
A Second Brain
That is why I recommend starting the process with a Personal Knowledge Management system and creating a second brain. Personally I use Obsidian and would recommend it to anyone. The fact that the basic software is free is a bonus. But we are all made differently and there are other options out there like, Notion, Evernote and the recent attractive addition Capacities.
Streamlining your workflow with digital tools
Once you have decided upon a second brain tool where you want to store your important digital world. The next stage is to think about the other tools you are going to use around it. Some will be satellites around the system that are there to perform a single function, other apps will be part of your work flow. In the Apps section of the blog I plan on covering many Apps that will facilitate knowledge growth and workflow. A basic system might look like this:
- Email Client
- An organised Browser With Profiles
- A Bookmarking System (If Not Using The Second Brain)
- Read it later Application
- Second Brain
- A Quick Notes Tool For Temporary Storage
- A Memory Keeper (If Not Using The Second Brain)
- Task or Project Management
Of course this is a basic workflow for the average person wanting to control the flow of information coming in. If you have a more demanding workflow like blogging there will be other apps to add into the mix.
Optimising digital file management systems
As well as creating a clear flow of information through a curated set of Apps, the following step is to create a clear file naming structure in the Apps you are choosing to use. There are a few examples of how to do this. The OG would be David Allen’s Getting Things Done. More recently there is Tiago Forte’s Building A Second Brain and the Para method, which stands for Projects, Areas, Resources an Archives.
Then there is Nick Milo’s Linking Your Thinking System. This was built around the Acronym ACCESS, which stands for Atlas, Calendar, Cards, Extras, Sources & Spaces. However, he is on the the brink of releasing the simplified ACE structure. Atlas, Calendar & Efforts. My own system takes the best of the Para, Access and Ace models and melds them into something personal, because at the end of the day your second brain (and supporting systems) should be as individual as your first brain.
Establish clear naming conventions
If this all seems a little complicated for you the TL;DR version is to use the same naming conventions everywhere. For example my daily notes in Obsidian are dated in the YYYY-MM-DD format for easy sorting, therefore every date based file or document on my computer uses the same system. Similarly I use Efforts: Blogging/blog-name Creativity/Cardmaking, Creativity/Diamond Painting etc as areas in my Second Brain notes, then as files in my computer and photo albums etc so everything is easy to find and link up.
Regularly review and update processes
This is a fine balance. Part of the reviewing progress is looking at the Apps you are using. Are they still the best choice? Are their newer Apps that would be better for your needs. Is there a workflow that will be even more streamlined? One of the biggest problems you can run into when it comes to digital organisation is never knowing when to stop and say, for now this is good enough.
My best advice is, if you are going to add a new or replacement tool into your workflow be prepared to use it for a year minimum. If you can’t commit to that, the chances are that the App wasn’t right for you. If you don’t give yourself a year to use a tool you can’t optimise a routine around it. In the Second Brain Community Shiny object syndrome can be all too real.
Digital Organisation – Simplicity Is Key
I’m an Apple person, this makes life a little easier as I don’t need tools that work across all operating systems. Because of this I can simply choose the baked in option. Although I use Obsidian to build my Second Brain and curate knowledge and reference materials, everything else that I used to use Evernote for, from shopping lists to user manuals all now goes into Apple Notes. It is simple but good enough, and I can share a folder with my husband for those notes that apply to both of us.
Until next time,