Organization Effort 2011

Design Books on a Shelf

Hello everyone! Happy 2011!

Now, viagra 60mg I’m not usually one to make New Year’s resolutions (or write really wordy blog posts!), artificial but one thing I’ve been working hard at so far this year is improving my organization. This included a good old fashioned office cleaning and purging of old documents and books, ed but I also a digital rearrangement as well. After reading Frank Chimero’s great post about his workflow, I thought that I might share a few of the new things I’ve tried in case someone else finds them useful. It’s likely boring, technical reading, but I’ll try to be brief!

Applications
First, I’ve gone through and taken a close look at the applications that I have on my machine. I had a lot of small apps that I had downloaded at one time or another thinking things like “some day when I need to pretend to mix records like a DJ, this will be AWESOME!” Sadly, my DJ dream may never come to fruition, so that went into the garbage along with several other useless programs, slimming down my Applications folder considerably. It’s like shoes, if you won’t wear them, ditch them!

Documents
I then did a scan of my documents folder to make sure that everything has a place (not just a running list of 400+ random documents). If not . . . into the garbage as well. I’ve been nesting a lot of folders within folders to keep things organized and I find that helpful. Another tool that has been helpful in organizing documents and text snippets is a free tool called Evernote which I just started using a week ago. Evernote is a cloud-syncing application that stores text, photos, audio, and even PDF files and can be synced between multiple computers and even iOS devices. A lot of the files I had as documents on my computer got moved to Evernote. I initially wasn’t sure if I would have a need for it, but 130 notes (in 5 days) later, I clearly do! You can set up folders and nest them as well as use tags, so it’s easy to search for what you’re needing. I’m thinking it will be a good tool to draft some blog writing in the future. In addition, some of the many things that it could be used for are:

  • recipes (awesome!)
  • lists of local service vendors
  • grocery lists
  • design inspiration clippings
  • to-do/wish lists
  • books to read/movies to watch

Fonts and Photos
I also am taking charge of other files on my machine including fonts and photos. On the font front, I found that when I upgraded to Snow Leopard on the Mac, my fonts all went to hell. Many didn’t show up or wouldn’t load and I think FontBook on the Mac is completely worthless. SO, I purchased a copy of Fontcase and it has worked amazingly well! I highly recommend it if you are a hoarder of fonts like I am. I really should just go through and eliminate what I won’t ever use, but in the mean time, FontCase is great.

I’ve been using a flat folder structure to organize my photos for years and up until this point, it’s worked OK. Lately, I’m finding that there are folders all over the place and I can’t always find things (and this includes client work!), so I wanted to get a photo organization system in place. After asking a few people, it came down to Apple’s Aperture vs. Picasa (although I considered iPhoto, Adobe Lightroom and blueMarine as well). Aperture came highly recommended, so I went with it. I’m still in the very beginning stages of figuring it out, but so far, I think I like it a lot. The biggest hurdle for me has been to figure out how I want to structure my storage. I think I have too many images to store all on my hard drive, so I may need another external drive to handle it. I think it will allow me to scan my photos faster and eliminate the blatantly bad ones (out of focus, etc), saving me disk space. Once the photos are imported, the organization, geo-location, and face recognition are all really useful tools. The photo editing is supposed to be it’s strong suit, but I haven’t gotten that far yet, so more to come . . .

As a side note: I did play around with the face recognition in Picasa as well and I think it actually does a better job in that area. If that feature is a big deal for you, it’s worth giving Picasa a try first (since it’s free!) Organizationally, it seems that Picasa and Aperture are quite similar, so give them both a look before spending any money.

Design resources
I’ve also found that I have accumulated a large quantity of design resources over the past several years of working. These include vector images, scanned patterns and drawings, tutorial files, eBooks, icon sets, and Photoshop brushes. While none of these things are central to my work, really, I still have the feeling that SOMEDAY I might need something like that in a bind. So, I’ve set up a nested folder system for each of those categories so I can at least have a place to toss things and forget about them with some hope of finding them down the road if I need them.

Online Presence
I’ve also been looking at the ever growing amount of online accounts that I’ve been accruing and wanted to try and cut that list down as well. So, I went through the list of accounts I have and anything that I haven’t used in the past 3 months (and didn’t want to lock in the username) I deleted my account. In some cases, I had to contact the support people to have it deleted for me, but I ran into no resistance. I still have a lot of accounts, but I think they’re all useful now and serve a certain purpose.

For the sites that survived the cut, I wanted to keep a list of passwords and login info in one place so I could have a reference point in case my mind slips any further! A coworker of mine wrote an overview of KeePassX for Mac and so I thought I’d give it a try. It’s a free piece of software that uses a master password to safeguard all of your other private information. It even syncs over Dropbox (one of my favorite online services) so you can access your information on multiple computers. 1Password is another program I looked into, but KeePassX seems to be what I need right now.

Next up will be to tackle my RSS reader! I think I’ve hit the point where looking at a lot of design sites has gone from being inspirational to mostly depressing or at least distracting, so I need to flush out the good ones and let the others go.

Conclusion
As I continue with this cleanup effort, I might write more about it If people are interested. I’ve come to realize that in the physical world, we have to limit our possessions to what we have space for. Even then, I think it’s important to reduce clutter and live with minimal, yet quality, possessions. However, this mindset had not quite followed me to the digital world where space is (nearly) unlimited and most anything can be gotten for free or cheap. I think it’s a good exercise to look at your digital “hoarding” and see what you really need and what you can live without. Again, Frank sums this up beautifully.


Appendix
Some other tools I’ve been using for a while that I really like are:

  1. The Autofocus system for a to-do list. Simple, handwritten and really effective, I think.
  2. A Google Doc spreadsheet for tracking client work/invoices. It’s a little old school given the billing/invoice software that’s out there, but it’s simple for me to glance at and use. I recently got a copy of Billings, so we’ll see if that’s any better.
  3. Inbox Zero. I’ve gotten to be pretty intense about getting rid of or archiving email and this video totally changed my thinking on the subject.
  4. Backup plan. I’ve been using Time Machine with a lot of luck (and a few stressful bail out situations!) I probably need to add a level of redundancy in there, too, so that’s on the to-do list.