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Sunday, 9 April 2017

Organisation

I have quite a lot of things to do at the moment. I did one of them today. Well, okay, I didn't really need to do it. One of those things is to write a blog post, in the sense that it is important to me that I write at least one post a month. I've had a couple of good ideas bouncing around in my skull. This post did not evolve from one of them.

In year ten we had to come up with topics for our speeches. As I remember things I had two major directions that I wanted to take it in. One referenced Paul Henry's strange remarks about then then Governor General Anand Satyanand. The other revolved around a line from a movie: have a plan and stick to it. That's the more important thing today, but this isn't the only context that we need to be thinking about today.

Every now and again I read stuff about the Business world. A lot of these come from BBC Capital. To be honest, though, they kind of blend together, which is one reason why I am not, now anyway, tracking down either of the two I want to talk about. The first one to mention is about how to organise emails... the moral was: don't. The major issue with organising emails is that they don't actually help you find the emails faster: you can just search the inbox. The other one was also organisational, insofar as it contained the moral that tidy desks and workplaces aren't necessarily better workplaces. At least, that's what I remember. Indeed, I am convinced that their argument was that having to think about a messy system created an organised chaos in the mind. That is, that you think about stuff makes you more engaged.

Finally, prior to one my university exams our lecturer told us that essay writing is a stochastic process... or something like that. The point that he was making is that the ideas literally do just come to you, i.e. you need to leave the essay part of the exam until later and just note down relevant ideas throughout the rest of the thing. This way you can, towards the end, look at the list and impose some sort of logical structure on it. I didn't really do this, which may not surprise you when I have always been sceptical of exam-essay-planning and I am pretty sure I've written about this before (and, obviously, you're a dedicated reader and remember everything I've written here better than I do). In fact, basically the only thing I plan is immediate issues like what to do in a week out of the chaotic stuff that comes at me (apparently like a group of waddling ducks) and when, or it's course planning. I like course planning. I think, in fact, that it may be the best bit of the semester. I'm not even kidding.

Anyway, what I spent today doing was organising my Google Drive that the university has set me up with for life (cool, eh?). I never used to use it but I have always been the kind of person that people probably expected to be using the cloud. And, in some ways, I kind of have been such a person, insofar as I am addicted to emailing attachments of stuff to and from myself. Initially this was because I worked on things at school and home or at uni and home, but eventually it just became a habit. Now, I mostly use it so I download stuff at uni and name it there before filing it in the Drive and on my hard-drive. But I think I've explained this before. I probably didn't mention the vague-friend of mine who drove off with his MacBook on the top of his car and lost everything. There are two reasons for this. Macs are dumb. Don't use them. And if you think grey is pretty, go back to Windows 95. This is the 21st Century dweebs. Wake up sheep. &c. The other reason is that it didn't really change my behaviour. I probably started because organising stuff is a great distraction form the world of things you actually have to do... and it feels like it is is useful too. Awesome. You can psychologically convince yourself that you are not actually not working. Best. Thing. Ever. Totes. Not. Insidious. Procrastination. Nuh-uh. Um... anyway, last time this came up I had a picture.


See? Grey. Not a great colour. Not stylish.

Now, the thing with organising stuff in some Cloud based memory platform (whatever you happen to use), is that you can access it anywhere (with internet and a "device"). But really, it's just storage, same as ever. And the thing with organising stuff is that it's a great way of narrowing down where something is. And if you can't go crtl-F or whatever, that's the most awesomest, bestest thing in the whole wide world. Organised Filing Cabinet > The Beatles > Jesus > God. And when you can ctrl-F? Well, it's still better than having some sort of thing you cannot impose order on. It's great to be able to search, but I've done more than 20 courses... I might remember which course something is from, but I probably don't remember the actual thing itself. I may, in fact, require some sort of prompt. That is where filing still comes in handy. And in the context of an email, this doesn't really happen. After all, the sorts of things I am remembering are different. Maybe I am trying to think of something that is in a non-searchable PDF... if this happens in an email, my reference point will probably be the sender... i.e. search for the sender. At a certain point, it is just easier to have all sorts of files separated out rather than having to make sure of both (a) all files have unique names, and (b) all files are identified by the course as well as something more specific.

Now, my filing philosophy is very different to my workspace, as such. I'm a lot like that dude in that ad I remember from way back. You know, he planned to take over your desk my next quarter and the whole floor by the end of the financial year? Something like that anyway. I am spread out. I like to be spread out. But in my folders? Basically, as few files as possible. What's the difference?

Every now and again, you see something on Overheard about people who bring in their own laptop and then sit down in front of one of the provided computers and proceed to not use that. Some of them get logged off for inactivity. Most of them are pricks. But the point is that sometimes it is better to have a reference material on one screen and the actual work be happening on some second screen. A physical workplace has probably always embodied this ideal, which is why when I write essays I have all the readings spread out all around me. With tangible materials it is best to be able to grab the thing I want specifically, without having to bog myself down flipping through a nice and tidy compact stack. That is, we're essentially using our memories as the search function for a single unorganised list.

The thing is, sometimes it gets to be the case that the mess is too much. Maybe it makes it look like you have too much to do. Sometimes you just need to be able to control something... anything... and, conveniently, I am God in my room. And that's ultimately what all kinds of organisation are about: control. Yes, even OCD... in this case, it's the sufferer being controlled by their compulsion (obsession? I'd say whichever but I probably already sound more insensitive than I want to). The plan, of course, is simply another form of organisation... and while it is important to have flexibility and thus to not be too rooted to a particular course of action... have a plan and stick to it. There should always be a reason why that plan was developed. So, ask yourself, is the rationale still true? Or are you just procrasti-planning?

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