Piling Up

August 29th, 2011 - Madrid

I’m trying to tackle in a more systematic way how I gather information from multiple sources hoping to manage this overflow a little better. The goal is to make the most of the ever-increasing pile of new things knowing that in reality there is always very little time and that it is better to enjoy and learn a handful of things than staring at a huge tower of piled up papers feeling bad about yourself.

The trickiest parts is forcing yourself to store less. Since we have almost limitless storage capacity for practical purposes, I tend to save anything that could potentially be interesting in the present or in the long distant future. But the shock of looking at a folder with thousands of files makes me back away and not even try to deal with one of them.

Gradually I’m doing better at this and I want to write what it’s working for me. For now I’ll just list the main contributors to my mess as a way of acknowledging my enemy :)

  • Mail
    thank god for archiving in gmail, I was reluctant at first but now I encourage everyone to use it since taking the old ones out of sight gives you peace of mind. Deleting them might be as good, but this way I don’t have to think about it. I tend to clear the inbox folder each couple of days, and It’s not so hard to empty out even after a fews weeks.

  • Social networks
    I’m too adicted to google reader to put too much time into them :) I use twitter time to time, I see facebook as a noisy agenda, and I like google+ but still have little traffic on it.

  • Downloads
    this folder gets cluttered easily but it’s also straightforward to clear.

  • Podcasts
    I’ve got 24 subscriptions but thanks to the iphone/itunes and the hours of commuting time I could even use a few more.

  • Languages
    I have hundreds of notes that I’ve written through the years on English, French and German. They are full of words that I wanted to learn along with questions and important things to remember, and they were completely unreachable. It was so frustrating to know that somewhere there was written three times a useful sentence that I wouldn’t be able to remember when needed, that we ended up developing a whole website and community to publish notes and test them periodically (wolty.com).

  • Books
    I don’t buy books compulsevely, so even if some are covered in dust, it’s not overwhelming.

  • Music
    My music folder is sort of a disaster but I can live with it. I’m waiting for a service such as iCloud to sort it out. Recently I threw away most of my cds since their main use was to weight down the shelf in case it decided to escape flying out of the window.

  • Photos
    In September 2004 I started to save them in a more or less neatly way. The first three years are pretty good, the next two and a half are ok, but since Febrary 2009 it’s a chaotic disaster of numbered new folders. That’s about 35000 photos waiting for me to set them in order. So far my approach is taking care of the new ones and waiting for a (summer, may be? retirement?) when i’ll have more time. I hope that dittit.com launches soon, so I can make a goal out of it.

  • Reader
    I love feeds. I’m subscribed to about 150 feeds ranging from blogs which publish twice a year to massive ones as HN (I recommend the score filtered versions, check out talkfast.org/2010/07/23/a-cure-for-hacker-news-overload). I skim through them and “mark all as read” in a daily basis, but the real problem for me is that I save the links for future reading.

  • Links
    This is the hardest for me. They are not just bookmarks to help me find the urls, most of them are things to read or to learn from. I’ve had enough to draw out some stats, and in average I save between 5 to 7 links each day, that’s about 200 a month. Twice a year I break the 1000 barrier and sweep away 90% of them. This is absurd, but lately I got it under control. If what I’m doing works i’ll post about it :)