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How Do You Manage the Information In Your Life?

timothy posted about 4 years ago | from the this-drawer-is-for-my-ocd-meds dept.

Data Storage 366

An anonymous reader writes "How do you manage the multitude of information sources in your lives? How do you keep track of the electronics or programming projects you're working on, or the collection of photos you took from your last holiday, or the notes and reading you're doing to learn a new language? Do you have a personal wiki, a blog, or maybe a series of tablet based notes, or voice recordings? Or is it pen and paper, and a blank book for each different hobby? I'm a student, and like most of you, have a few different interests to keep track of (as well as work). But I realise I also have a little OCD, and struggle a bit to keep on top of information (whether hobbies or personal life) in a way that I feel I have complete control over. So how do you all do it?"

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excel (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34005618)

also mercurial or git.

also journals.

Privacy (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34005672)

Just as long at it is secret from your wife you are fine.

Omni Outliner Pro (4, Interesting)

fyngyrz (762201) | about 4 years ago | (#34005838)

This is an OS X based outlining system that supports images, sounds, text, pretty much whatever. I use several outlines. One contains general information, from password and login data for every web site I use to ideas for t-shirts and guitar tabs; the other is an organized timeline, a diary of sorts, that has every year since I was born in it, and all the events I have been able to remember from before I started using it, and all the significant events since (much more dense there, of course.)

The collapsible outline format is ideal for a timeline; All decades but the current one are closed; all years in the current decade but the current one are closed; all months but the current one are closed; so the display is very compact, yet I have almost instant access to anything, any time, organized and coherent. Just as an aside, once written, I was able to recall a lot more by reading it to myself as if it were a story... concurrent events floated up to the surface almost unbidden... highly recommended if you're into journaling.

For everything else, it works very well, though a lot depends on the initial format you pick. Mine ended up with six root headings.

Under each of those are many more headings and megabytes of textual content I've generated over the years. Also images, musical performances (of mine), poetry, etc. Some of it came from text files I maintained prior to obtaining this software; I'm glad those days are gone. I'm sure other's organizations would be different, mine grew somewhat organically, and I might do it differently today, but it works extremely well as is, so then again, maybe not.

I'm not affiliated with the program developers at all; I'm just a really satisfied customer. For the money, the organizational chops I gained were hugely worth it.

If it's not work related... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34005626)

Just have fun and do what comes naturally.

Too many tasks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34005628)

I keep a very organized storage partition that has a folder for either m projects, games, music or whatever else. I know what I should be working on and I simply go to it. It sounds like you have a vey busy life and maybe should cut back a bit and focus on a couple things, versus several

Re: How do you manage the information in your life (5, Insightful)

iamapizza (1312801) | about 4 years ago | (#34005632)

I have a brain.

Re: How do you manage the information in your life (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34005760)

What is it like to have a brain?

Re: How do you manage the information in your life (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34005804)

How do you feel about having a brain?

Re: How do you manage the information in your life (0)

burisch_research (1095299) | about 4 years ago | (#34005910)

In soviet russia, your brain has YOU!

Re: How do you manage the information in your life (1)

tsa (15680) | about 4 years ago | (#34006042)

Did you come to me because you have a brain?

easy... (4, Insightful)

Goldsmith (561202) | about 4 years ago | (#34005638)

I don't

txt file (1)

Spy Handler (822350) | about 4 years ago | (#34005640)

I keep all the info of my life in txt files.

It helps that I can type really fast.

Re:txt file (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34006010)

Same here. Organized text files. There is nothing more portable and easier to back up.

For example, on my file server I have a folder called Projects. Within it is a text file with potential ideas, as well as folders for each project I'm working on or have worked on, each of those containing their own text file. I use a good tabbed editor (notepad++ or kate) so I don't have to constantly re-open all the active documents on each reboot.

The only disadvantage I've found is that if you want a nice pretty interface for organizing it, you're SOL. That doesn't bother me because I value portability and speed above all else when it comes to my insanely important stuff. Besides, entering a new thought is as simple as pressing enter twice to start a new paragraph. Searching is as simple as "grep -ir" or ^F.

Pseudoproblem. (1)

Oricalchos (1339065) | about 4 years ago | (#34005642)

You're making all this too complicated.

Train your memory.

Re:Pseudoproblem. (4, Insightful)

mabhatter654 (561290) | about 4 years ago | (#34005824)

organization gives your brain time for other things!

Folders (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34005650)

yep that's it I'm OCD about putting things in well named folders.

Re:Folders (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | about 4 years ago | (#34006158)

So what do you do if they should be in 3 or 4 different folders?

O__O (1)

monkyyy (1901940) | about 4 years ago | (#34005654)

in my mind + google for less important things

O__O (0)

commodore64_love (1445365) | about 4 years ago | (#34005748)

I'm replying because I like your subject line. :-)

I organize my life by: Not having a complicated life in the first place. Simplify; simplify. And for my work, I use a calendar or dayplanner to write down appointments such as: Boss Meeting 2pm room xxx.

My data (movies, music, etc) is backed-up from the c: drive to two USB drives, one of which is put in a safe along with birth certificate, medical records, and other life crucial information that I don't want to lose in case of fire.

Re:O__O (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34006152)

Why would you have a meeting with your boss in your porn room?

Medium term memory (2, Interesting)

ThreeGigs (239452) | about 4 years ago | (#34005656)

Between long and short-term memory is intermediate-term memory. I let my brain manage it, unless it's something that I won't use frequently enough and might forget, in which case I toss it in a text file I call 'chaos' and surround it with keywords I can search for. I've been doing the 'chaos' thing for years now, kind of a catch-all database.

Whatever works for you (1)

satch89450 (186046) | about 4 years ago | (#34005660)

For me, it's PostIts. Different colors for different categories of things. I also have a composition notebook (from the back-to-school sale a few years back) in which I place PostIts with more durable information...and it's also where I keep all my various usernames and passwords. Change a password? Rip out the old PostIt, put in a new one.

Some PostIts go on my monitor, thinks I need to remember RIGHT NOW. I'll also put up working note phrases for projects, like IP addresses, port numbers, APIs, and important status return values.

Sometimes, though, appointments and PostIts don't work that well. So I use the calendar in my Android phone to keep track of time things, and set it to remind me sufficiently in advance that I can close out what I'm doing, put things in cruise mode, and get in the car and get to the appointment on time.

Re:Whatever works for you (2, Informative)

froggymana (1896008) | about 4 years ago | (#34005706)

For passwords I use a combination of Dropbox and Keepass. With that I can access my passwords from any computer that I have internet access to, and you could keep it on a flash drive as well, you would just need to update your password database file manually.

May be Flamebait, but it's true. (2, Insightful)

gblackwo (1087063) | about 4 years ago | (#34005670)

With my Mac.

Re:May be Flamebait, but it's true. (1)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | about 4 years ago | (#34005848)

With my Mac.

That's the spirit! Shoot the fuckers! Do you have a Mac 10 .45 or the 9mm [] ?

I find using a silencer really helps in organizing my life!!

Re:May be Flamebait, but it's true. (2, Interesting)

ctmurray (1475885) | about 4 years ago | (#34005850)

I too am a Mac user at home. I use Yojimbo as a catchall for important emails and web pages that I "print to Yojimbo). I also save many of these in my email program in appropriate folders (thus doubling my chances of finding something). With documents I am a good filer of information in fairly well organized folders and sub folders. At work on a PC I don't have an equivalent of Yojimbo (I wish I did and this thread reminds me to look into this further). The corporate email system (Notes) is really non-intuitive on how to save emails in folders that will be available for a long time in the future. The Notes mail database size is limited by the company so files are "archived" without my permission. And yet this does not really work well (and since not under my control I can't attempt to fix). Archives get moved to different locations (server, my computer, various folders) with each revision of Notes and receipt of new computers over time. So I gave up. I am just as good at saving documents so I can find them in the future, I just can't find the email that might have been with them. I keep a phone log at work and urgent things come in by phone or I can put down urgent To Do items as I have to look at this log regularly. Don't really use stickies on a computer for this stuff.

Re:May be Flamebait, but it's true. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34005874)

Downmodded as desired.

Join the movement and downmod those who request it!

Re:May be Flamebait, but it's true. (1)

TarMil (1623915) | about 4 years ago | (#34005882)

If you don't want to be flamebait, you should be more specific. What kind of software do you use?

Re:May be Flamebait, but it's true. (1)

gblackwo (1087063) | about 4 years ago | (#34006076)

Primarily, I have rules set up that color code my incoming e-mails from 4 addresses. For important random tidbits of info- digital sticky notes are pretty good. For media, iLife does a good job. And for larger projects I keep fairly organized folders. None of this is anything extravagant- nor am I using any third party software for any sort of organization. This guy seems to be looking for an all inclusive software solution, which I know of none.

Honestly? (2, Informative)

DarkIye (875062) | about 4 years ago | (#34005674)

Virtual sticky notes on my desktop, and pinned tabs in my Chrome window.

I'd basically forget my whole life if I lost these things.

E-mail myself (3, Informative)

rueger (210566) | about 4 years ago | (#34005682)

Notes, ideas, documents - anything that I might want to find later. G-mail is my filing cabinet these days.

Re:E-mail myself (1)

blackfrancis75 (911664) | about 4 years ago | (#34006128)

I second this. You can say what you want about privacy (just dont store passwords there), but nothing beats having an online repository of all the important factoids in your life. Remember that Google has Calendar, Notebook and Docs too

A Couple of Things (2, Informative)

blaster151 (874280) | about 4 years ago | (#34005686)

Look at the Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology by David Allen. It's good at helping you keep track of all the stuff that's going on. Also, when I feel like my head is getting too cluttered, I do a brain dump into MindJet's MindManager software. It can help capture many disparate pieces of information visually and the process can yield some mental clarity . . .

Re:A Couple of Things (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34006038)

I've heard GTD is a good methodology. Revamping one's life takes time, however, so in the meantime I'm using the OHP (One Huge Pile) approach.

All in my head (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34005690)

If I have learned something, it's in my head. If it's not in my head, I haven't learned it.

let it go (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34005708)

Your productivity will increase exponentially if you stop trying to keep all of your information perfectly organized and all of your activities thoroughly documented. Keep a calendar of some sort so you can keep track of far out appointments, and keep a plain txt file for each subject.

It is not that hard a nut to crack (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34005728)

For hobbies, it is important to realise that it is just that: a hobby. You don't need to document it all, nobody is going to audit you.

As for myself, I'm into electronics and programming.

I design a piece of electronics on my computer (schematic capture, PCB design), then I create the thing itself and tinker until it is as I want it. Then, I print the schematic and PCB layout, archive the computer files on a CD and put these in a binder that hold all my designs. That's it. I don't need more. When the CD falls to bit-rot, so be it.

Programming is even more simple. I write a piece of software and that's it. I don't obsess about keeping the source code forever. When my hard disk dies I have a backup. When that fails, well, too bad. No worries, most likely I wouldn't have looked at it ever again anyway.

So, moral of the story, keep only what you need to keep. The rest is clutter and it holds you back.

Four ways (1)

trydk (930014) | about 4 years ago | (#34005732)

I organise my information in four ways:

Whatever I need to keep hidden (passwords, PIN codes, ...) in KeePass.

Meetings, birthdays, days to put the rubbish out and whatever else time related in my calendar(s). I actually have a few calendars on computers and phones that I keep synchronised.

Names, addresses, telephone numbers, E-mail addresses, etc. in my contact list on my phone. I synchronise this with my other systems too.

Everything else goes in a hierarchy on the file server: Anything trade related, for example, in a trade folder organised by date, provider and type (receipts, contracts, proposals, warranties, policies, terms & conditions, ...). Anything related to my children's schools in a school folder. Recipies, downloaded literature, programs, photos ... And so on.

I find this system works well for me and I can always find things (sometimes to my wife's surprise ;-) even several years later.

Simplify (1)

dugn (890551) | about 4 years ago | (#34005734)

With multiple online news and interest sources (23 page 'home' page), personal financial software, investments, innumerable interests and hobbies. With my new Droid, I found myself inundated with even more sources competing for my interests and time. Realizing the current demands on my curiosity and OCD-like tendencies was bad now and was trending worse, I took hard inventory of my life and greatly simplified.

It was hard – probably not much unlike an addict to some degree. But the harsh ‘life cutting’ I did to remove extraneous demands and perceived demands was the fix, not a unified data source or Wiki.

Phone & Notes (3, Insightful)

rkohutek (122839) | about 4 years ago | (#34005738)

Like most people on /. I carry a phone that has a handy-dandy built-in notes app and a calendar.

I use those tools, and with the aid of categorizing things as (not)?urgent|important (thanks 7 habits!), I do a great job of staying on top of my life -- from learning to play the guitar to today's work deliverables.

Things that are *important* get stuck into my Notes for the day, and added to my to-do-list when I get to a computer. Urgent or time-sensitive things get calendared for a specific time with notes attached immediately.

Another huge thing I do is /routine/. If I water the lawn every morning at 7:00am, I don't ever wonder what I'm doing at that time of day: I'm watering the lawn. Same goes for checking my email -- I do that on a very set schedule so that I can focus on whatever else in the meantime.

I think it was in Memento where it was said that Habits and routine make life livable. Throw in some discipline and you should never forget to buy your girl flowers ever again :D

Re:Phone & Notes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34005902)

A student of mine asked a similar question recently, and here's my reply. It sounds like you're talking about more info than this, but it still might be helpful.

I try to make sure everything important ends up on my iPhone and laptop - sometimes I'll even scan in hardcopies with my iPhone.

I don't use to-do lists--I enter both to-dos and meetings as events in my iPhone calendar, which I sync regularly to iCal. I try to make sure my iPhone is the "current" version of things. Items that don't have a specific time associated with them end up at 11pm - not ideal but seems to work. I make copious use of the notes field, and when I use it, I try to put an asterisk in the "subject" line.

Anything I need to refer back to often goes to the Notes app, which syncs to the Apple Mail client. I'd sure love it if the calendar could link to Notes, and vice versa... Seems this is why people like Evernote [] but I'm not a fan of keeping everything in the cloud...

I'm don't consider myself a Mac fanboy, but like you I find myself juggling a ton of info all the time and this is how my system evolved.

Re:Phone & Notes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34005934)

After a few years attempting to manage it all by a wiki, flat file, Tomboy Notes and a few other ways, I've settled on using the GTD [] methodology, implemented with GTG [] .

Like the parent, I use the notes section of my phone as an "in bucket" so I can capture random ideas that pop into my head throughout the day.

It's pretty effective at helping me manage literally hundreds of different actionable and not-currently-actionable tasks and projects.

I've not yet found an effective way of managing arbitrary non-actionable data - although a generic (Linux-compatible) storage system with tagging would be perfect.

This is what FB and Google are for (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34005740)

I just post it all on Facebook and then use Google to find it. Fortunately Google knows all of my information so I can get to it using instant search and not have to worry about not being able to find my stuff.

Re:This is what FB and Google are for (1)

tsa (15680) | about 4 years ago | (#34006082)

Is that why you post as an AC, so we don't find your creditcard number too easily?

Post-Its (2, Interesting)

J.J. Dane (1562629) | about 4 years ago | (#34005762)

On my monitor at work, or on the fridge at home.

Other than that I figure, if I don't remember it it probably wasn't that important..

OrgMode (3, Insightful)

patro (104336) | about 4 years ago | (#34005766) []

It's very powerful once you get the concept.

Re:OrgMode (2, Informative)

flynt (248848) | about 4 years ago | (#34005870)

Two org-mode posts at the exact same minute :). The uses of org-mode are too numerous to mention in one post, but just to give a little more context... Org is essentially an outliner, event planner, calendar, PDF and HTML authoring system, multi-language code-authoring environment (babel), time tracker, shopping list maintainer, contact database, ...

All this and it's Free Software, too. The mailing list and community is one of the most responsive out there. I've heard many people say that learning emacs is worth it just for org-mode alone.

Check out [] for more use cases and tutorials/talks. Incredible piece of software, cannot recommend it enough.

Re:OrgMode (1)

TarMil (1623915) | about 4 years ago | (#34005914)

I use org-mode to maintain a few todo lists and take notes in class, and I know I only use a small fraction of its capabilities. It is indeed a powerful tool.

Re:OrgMode (1)

noip (1049192) | about 4 years ago | (#34006064)

Works on everything, syncs to iPad and iPhone (mobileorg). The more you use it, the deeper the rabbit hole goes.

Emacs org-mode (3, Interesting)

flynt (248848) | about 4 years ago | (#34005768)

Emacs org-mode ( Your life in plain text. Nothing else compares.

Simple - google docs. If you can swallow the AUP (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34005772)

You can manage everything from multiple projects to email. And it's free. I was a bit hesitant at first, but now I depend on it for just about everything. The collaboration features including secure document sharing, calendaring etc is amazing. No wonder so many huge corporations and universities have moved to google exclusively.

Give it a try, it may fit your needs.

CVS or SVN (1)

Rick Richardson (87058) | about 4 years ago | (#34005776)

CVS or SVN for projects of one or a few persons.  Like:

$ cvs co geo
$ cvs co foo2zjs
$ svn co gnome-manual-duplex


Photos:  organize by year

Re:CVS or SVN (2, Informative)

greg1104 (461138) | about 4 years ago | (#34005998)

Right basic idea, but not CVS or SVN. Use a distributed version control system like git. Create subdirectories for everything. Put every file that's important to you in there. Make the directory tree the organizational structure. Move stuff around as you see fit if the structure isn't working for you.

That's how I've gotten every important bit of information I've ever collected in my life all in one place. And every copy I check out, on every computer I own, is yet another backup. I'd never trust a single centralized repo for this job. Also, a distributed VCS means that you can work and commit changes on any system, with some hope of merging change conflicts. One system should be the nominal "master" you synchronize every other around, but if it's lost no big deal; just promote another copy to that role, and let switch other systems to checking out from it instead.

The other trick I've adopted to is to write all text file notes in ReST markup. It makes for a structure that tends to be more readable anyway, and I need to turn one of them into something more formal, or print a nice looking copy, the work to do so is trivial.

Freemind (1)

MattGWU (86623) | about 4 years ago | (#34005778)

Use a paper notebook for a lot of things. It's redundant and inefficient but sometimes I'll high-level outline something in the notebook, then retype it into OpenOffice to add detail. Just how I worked, but also this was mostly before I had a netbook to tote around.

Actually had a couple programs on my Handspring Visor, of all things, that I kind of wish they had desktop version of so I could pull the databases in (Progect, Knowledge), if only for nostalgic purposes at this point, since that stuff is years old by now. They're pretty basic, for the most part: Progect is just an outliner with cool features, especially for planning and project management, and Knowledge is just a list maker with cool features and categorizing/tagging ability, and I've never found anything like that for the desktop.

Lately I've been really liking Freemind ( [] ) for planning and brainstorming ideas.

Re:Freemind (1)

mabhatter654 (561290) | about 4 years ago | (#34005924)

At work I use a similar thing to keep track of things I'm asked to do. I date the pages with items asked to do and throw them away when all the items are complete. My company uses a ticket tracking system, so once all the information is copied from the notebook and emails into the ticket the rest is junk. When the notebook runs out of new pages I copy the handful of remaining items to a new book, decide if they're useful or completed and move on.

this is a redundant story (3, Funny)

roman_mir (125474) | about 4 years ago | (#34005798)

Obviously real men post all of their life information onto the web and let the others back it up and then use Google to look up what the heck happened to them in their lives.

It's mostly a sad picture.

How do you manage the information in your life? (1)

pem (1013437) | about 4 years ago | (#34005800)

Not very well.

Find what's important (4, Insightful)

failedlogic (627314) | about 4 years ago | (#34005802)

I think you have to determine what is important to *you*. I've whittled down the books, photos and music, movies, notes, etc that are important to me first and foremost. It makes organizing, cataloging and backing up the information easier. I'm not suggesting if you have 2000 photos of your kid to get rid of them. But shurely, there's some information junk lying around that you don't need anymore. It might also mean reading books just lying around and deciding if they are keepers or just make some notes of what you read and then recycle (or better yet) donate the book to the library or a friend.

The fact is, if you think you have a little OCD, chances are your life is disorganized. I'm there somewhat too. But, in the last few weeks, I've done a lot of the above. I have to say, its made my life easier, less weight on my shoulders and I've been able to accomplish more. I don't have OCD, but I can tell you that this is certainly rewarding to accomplish.

I haven't found the best way to organize it yet. I'm struggling a bit with backups and debating wether keeping digital or "analog" (paper, print) copies of my information is the best.

Re:Find what's important (1)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | about 4 years ago | (#34005868)

I think you have to determine what is important to *you*. I've whittled down the books, photos and music, movies, notes, etc that are important to me first and foremost.

Why do you collect so much information in the first place?

It's bad enough that we must keep financial records but to record CDs,DVDs, etc ..etc.. etc... in order to locate it means you have way too much shit.

Re:Find what's important (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34006086)

I can easily take ~200 photos in a day. The next day I typically erase 90-95% of those and leave the good ones.

Prune well and prune early while you still remember what the value of the various items are.

Re:Find what's important (1)

mabhatter654 (561290) | about 4 years ago | (#34005980)

At my work we have gone through a lot of stuff related to 5S for organizing and making workplaces efficient. A lot of that applies to being at home too. The biggest part is having the discipline to keep "everything in it's place", to leave your desk empty every single night before going home. It's harder to do at home with kids and such but it can be done (I saw it on the internet!)

Redmine (1)

InfiniteWisdom (530090) | about 4 years ago | (#34005810)

I have an install of Redmine [] that I use to keep track of all my personal projects and todo lists and such. It's great because it's a single place where I can put stuff I'm working on, future ideas, break larger projects into tasks etc. That's useful for putting down tasks that I'm not going to get to immediately, as well as future projects. I have a few ideas for Android apps that I won't have the time to work on anytime soon, but whenever I have an idea I can go mark it down so when I do decide to go work on it some day, it's all there. I also have a separate project for ongoing stuff. For example, "organize tax stuff", "fix bathroom cabinet door". It's a convenient place I can go note things down when they occur to me without needing to drop everything to go work on it immediately.

Whatever works for you... take two (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34005814)

Ask yourself what that information is worth to you first. Then try to find a solution that works. If administering taking care of the information costs much more than it is worth, then you are doing something wrong.

My photos are quite important to me, so I have a GPS to be able to geotag them. Then I index, categorize and sort them in a image management system, keeping information of which off-site media they are backed up to.

Other bits of information is far less important, so them I have less advanced systems for taking care of. Your priorities might be different, thus needing different systems.

Having said that, I found iCalendar and AddressBook of Mac OS X to be really handy and since they already sync wirelessly with my 7 year old phone and my second gen iPod, I can carry a copy with me at all time. But usually I have PostIts until I come home to enter new data. It is handy to have one place to keep it all in, but that information is not critical to me.

Oh, Delicious Library and the likes are really nice when you try to remember which friend borrowed that film from you. Oh, yeah, I forgot that I am a grumpy old fart that still have my films on physical media :-)

wall calendar & legal pad (1)

peter303 (12292) | about 4 years ago | (#34005816)

Pretty old-fashoned from pre-computer days. I pretty much can keep track of everything in my mental memory after a daily refresh.

Minimalist approach (4, Interesting)

Bender0x7D1 (536254) | about 4 years ago | (#34005820)

My first line of defense is that I try to keep things to a minimum. If I have more than 3 things going on, I will delay most of them and do a mediocre job on the others because I'm not focused.

However, to answer your question, the best strategy I've ever used was a single notebook to track everything. Every item gets a bullet and every day gets a new page. If something didn't get done, it gets rewritten on the page for the next day. That means everything is in one place and having to rewrite the items every day is annoying, so items I don't really care about will be dropped from the list. If necessary, the bullets can reference outside information like, "Implement request in John's email 'Need a favor' received on 10/24/2010."

If you decide to resurrect an old project, you can flip through the notebook to find the bullet items regarding that project to help get yourself back up to speed.

You don't, in the end (4, Insightful)

sznupi (719324) | about 4 years ago | (#34005822)

Now, I'm sure this thread will get many suggestions how to improve your "information management", many might prove helpful in finding and refining you own ways - but ultimately, it all fails at some point; there's just too much of it all.

Learning to let things go will be crucial. I can't know what might work for you - maybe always listening (to the point of a habit), without exceptions or excuses, to that nagging voice telling you something is a waste of time? (say goodbye to those many certainly interesting things you won't ever finish reading) Maybe regular breaks (force yourself to them, an alarm clock on the other side of an apartment for example), thinking idly about the singular tasks at hand? Maybe separating stuff to work PC/area and thrash PC/area? Or maybe something completely different.

In the end, while technical solutions are helpful - your main effort will be at not circumventing them, not wasting any gains.

On a Mac... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34005828)

iLife,TaskPaper, Circus Ponies Notebook.

Notes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34005842)

Mindmaps :-)

Index cards (1)

thenextstevejobs (1586847) | about 4 years ago | (#34005852)

Basically using GTD.

I carry a stack of index cards everywhere. Write down every single damn thing that I need to ever think about.

I get home, throw them all in a pile.

Either late that evening, or early in the morning, I go through and make a list on a fresh index card of the things I need to take care of that day. Things that relate to a certain topic, say, musical endeavors, get put into a stack of similar cards. When I can, I pin these to the wall in columns by topic. Things that would only require a few clicks on a computer are generally done immediately.

Documents relating to these topics go into folders on my computer where digital, but anything that can be reasonably printed is printed, and put into a filing cabinet. The cabinet does not have a great deal of organization, and is a weak point. It does have a lot of papers about shit I'll hopefully read someday, and scrawly crazy notes that are probably garbage.

I've tried OmniFocus, the To-Do feature in iCal, different online todo lists (Remember the Milk?), and the ToDo app and Notes app on my iPhone. None of these things are working great for me. I'd like to perhaps 'go digital', but I haven't found the right setup. Hoping I'll get some fresh ideas from the comments here.

Have you tryed... (4, Insightful)

CrAlt (3208) | about 4 years ago | (#34005864)

Have you tried the "Not giving a fuck" method? []
It makes life much simpler...

Do you have a personal wiki, a blog, or maybe a series of tablet based notes, or voice recordings"

What? Your a student. Not a CEO. If you have so much data and photo's that it requires a database and a wiki to keep track of then its probably not making your life any better.
Try spending some time enjoying life rather then organizing and documenting it.

So how do I do it? (3, Insightful)

lbalbalba (526209) | about 4 years ago | (#34005872)

Well, I don't, actually. I just drown in information overload, really. It's kinda sad when you think about it.

Three 1.5x1.2m whiteboards... (1)

itsanx (1534709) | about 4 years ago | (#34005888)

...~50 regularly replaced sticky notes and 40 magnets. Nothing beats whiteboards for overview.

why manage? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34005896)

I just try to ignore most of it... Besides, eventually I'll wake up in a new life, so who cares about this passage? Eventually we all wake up and realize it is time to move along and with less baggage, the better.

I've been using Filemaker for the past 15 years (3, Funny)

pickens (49171) | about 4 years ago | (#34005898)

I have a lousy memory so over the past fiteen years, I have set up a series of about 20 Filemaker databases where I keep all the information that I don't want to lose. The strength of Filemaker for me is that it is easy to set up and that the database allows full text searches. Each database is set up using a template that automatically puts in the creation date and time and the modification date and time.

For example, when I started surfing the net in 1996, I set up a Filemaker database for all the interesting web sites I might want to come back to that includes the URL and a text description of the database. Over the years I have about 7,000 entries in the database. What is interesting is to go back and see what sorts of sites I was visiting say in 1998.

Whenever I see an interesting article with information that I may want to access again, I just copy all the text into another database along with the URL of the information. That database now has about 40,000 entries since I started keeping it in 1999.

I have another database that I started keeping in 1992 with all the phone calls that I make and receive and another database. That was very useful to me when I was a project manager and had to keep track of about twenty subcontractors and my agreements with them on what deliverables I would get from them and when they were due.

I have another database that I just call text where I edit text files for emails I send, or slashdot posts like this one before I post them. That one has about 30,000 entries so far.

I even have a database that I keep of slashdot stories that I have submitted and which ones have been accepted. Periodically I do a dump of that database to my web site [] .

I like to write non-fiction, and if I'm working on an article, then I have a web site set up where I can use a personal Wikipedia to keep track of references and footnotes like this one I have been working on for a while of Stanley Ann Dunham, the mother of President Obama, who grew up in my hometown of Ponca City [] or this one on the Pioneer Woman Models [] that I recently had accepted for publication in Oklahoma Magazine.

I don't recommend this methodology for everyone, but it works for me.

tiddlywiki and freemind (2, Informative)

Colin Smith (2679) | about 4 years ago | (#34005912)

Freemind for organising and planning things.

tiddlywiki for random useful information I've come across.

As to remembering. I don't, I have delegated that process to other people.

Oh right, I forgot. Kanban your life. (2, Interesting)

Colin Smith (2679) | about 4 years ago | (#34005962)

Write the things you need to do down on postits. Put into a "todo" area on a door or something. Then take two[1] out, stick them into in-progress and do them[2].
Each one completed gets a sweetie.

[1] Limit the number, and do the important ones first. The more you have going on, the longer it takes and the less you actually get done.

[2] keep it real, and short. A week or two at most. Y'know, break things down into stuff that can actually be done.

How I tamed the paper beast (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34005956)

My life is overflowing with paper records, so I took a few steps get some control:

1 - switched to paperless statements whenever possible, and auto pay everything.
2 - used a Fujitsu ScanSnap scanner to quickly and easily scan in existing (and new) paper, and use Acrobat to OCR it. ScanSnaps are worth their weight in gold
3 - heavily rely upon OS X's Spotlight feature to find crap
4 - use Bento to to get a grip on projects. I highly recommend Bento for organizing structured info. It's a simple database to be sure, but very, very easy to use.

KeePass for passwords (1)

Kyont (145761) | about 4 years ago | (#34005968)

The one thing you really need in this day and age is a way to keep track of passwords. Then you can have long, un-guessable, unique passwords for all those blogs, wikis, e-mail accounts, and online calendars you set up. And no, using "e-mail me whichever minor variation on my standard password I chose for this site but can't figure out right now" is not good enough. I use KeePass (or, as I prefer to capitalize it, KeepAss) which works great as a secure password database. I keep three or four copies of the database on various thumb drives in various locations (can't be too careful, you know, if some building burns down). Even if your mail account is hacked, they're not going to get your bank account too. The peace of mind will in itself help you stay organized!

A personal Subversion (source control) database is great for things like lists, letters, papers, coding projects, Ph.D. theses, etc.

As for photos? I just stick them in a dated folder when the camera starts getting full. Once a year, I pick the ten or fifteen best and put them in an online gallery for family and friends to view. I assure you, that's all anyone wants to see, and nobody cares if they're not in perfect chronological order.

Organize by year, then type, the specific item. (1)

johnynek (36948) | about 4 years ago | (#34005984)

This has been working well for me for approximately 8 years or so: []

The main benefit of organizing by year is that once the year is gone, you know that directory will never be written to again, so backing up becomes so easy, I actually very regularly do it. A little rsync, a few computers, and periodic DVD burning means I haven't lost any data in a long time.

Evernote and Remember the Milk (2, Informative)

rmccoy (318169) | about 4 years ago | (#34005988)

I use the Evernote web site, Mac application and iPhone app to capture information from the web, from images, from PDFs and assorted notes. The apps sync to the Evernote site and any image or PDF is OCRed so I can search on any text in them. I use multiple tags on each record so, combined with the ability to search any text contained in the item, I can easily locate anything in my data store. A day-to-day example is, I take a picture of any prescription label I get with my phone and send it to Evernote. Then, I can easily find it wherever I am when I need a refill. I also scan in receipts and then destroy the originals to cut down on the pile of paper that used to obscure my desk.

I keep track of to-do lists with Remember the Milk. I've never liked the name but it's the best task manager I've used. I can set up multiple folders for GTD-type use and it also has an iPhone app. I can create, maintain and complete apps on the phone and it pushes a notification each morning with the tasks that are due that day.

Not affiliated with either company, just a satisfied user.

Adding to the saying... (3, Insightful)

stimpleton (732392) | about 4 years ago | (#34005994)

There are various sayings: "A mechanics car", "a builders house" referring to the fact these items are often in states of disrepair.

For my situation as an information technologist I:
- am not OCD or driven in other "special" ways.
- pour everything I can into my job
- follow very formalized process at work. versioning, policies etc.

At home, I am the opposite. My excuse is there is nothing left after work. My music is scattered far and wide, I own the same CD twice, I have downloaded albums more than once, my finances are in disarray - I do pay bills in good faith, but I loose them. I dont track services on my car and it is frequently very overdue in road tax, maintenance etc.

I do use formalized process for coding at home (hobby stuff) but do so little these days. The one constant is insurance. I make sure that is up to par.

Error log to decrease repetition of mistakes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34006008)

Part of information management is making that information useful. To that end, I keep track of mistakes I've made and how they can be prevented in the future. Not only is organization of incoming information important, but what you do with that information.

Every once in a while I review the list of errors and corrective actions to verify that I'm not repeating mistakes.

I just remember it all. (3, Insightful)

John Hasler (414242) | about 4 years ago | (#34006014)

Except for the stuff I forget, which must not have mattered anyway or I would have remembered it. And if I really should have remembered it my wife reminds me in such a way as to make certain that I never forget it again.

Works for me.

Evernote (4, Informative)

jrj102 (87650) | about 4 years ago | (#34006018)

I use Evernote ( for just about everything. It allows me to easily combine text (vast majority of my notes are plaintext, obviously) with images, files, voice notes, etc. It's a great tool that stores everything in the cloud and syncs to clients on Mac, PC, and most mobile platforms. I've been really happy with the solution.

For task management, I bounced back and forth between OmniFocus on the Mac and Outlook on the PC... haven't really found a solution I'm happy with. As a result, I pretty much use an old-school paper to-do list that gets regenerated daily in a Moleskine-style notebook.

Google Sites + Tasks (1)

kramtark (767724) | about 4 years ago | (#34006026)

When I first started using a feed reader, I was very worried about the prospect of forgetting information I'd learned from various articles that I found important. I'm not super old yet, so I was interested in everything from raising kids to getting a job to preparing for retirement. Initially I tried to use to manage this information, but found its lack of built-in heirarchy to be a big negative.

So I started using JotSpot (now Google Sites) to keep track of everything. From experiences (how to interact with the opposite gender) to academics (programming!) to big life goals, all of the most important "revelations" and things I learn go on there. This personal wiki is absolutely invaluable to me in helping with my peace-of-mind and future planning. Someday, I hope that it will work as a sort of legacy... maybe a distilled version of what I've recorded could be passed on to my kids as a kind of "historical record".

And Google Tasks is awesome. Another commenter mentioned OrgMode, but I find the online nature of Tasks to be absolutely essential. When I sit down to do work, the first thing I do is open a separate tab with Tasks in fullscreen [simple] mode (, make sure everything's prioritized properly, and begin.

The important stuff, I remember (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | about 4 years ago | (#34006032)

and I ignore most of the rest. I keep all my email in text files and generally just grep them when II need to call up a piece of information (such as an order date) that I have forgotten.

Obligatory Shout-Out to Getting Things Done (1)

Bruce_Nash (766419) | about 4 years ago | (#34006036)

First, read David Allen's Getting Things Done. Then use whichever system is going to be most convenient to carry around with you. The two main features of a workable system, in my experience, are:

1. It has to break things into enough separate categories that you aren't overwhelmed with massive lists.

2. You have to be able to have the system with you at all times, so you can make note of things as they come up.

Whether you use something paper-based, text-file-on-computer-based or app-on-an-iPhone based is really a matter of personal preference. I like pen and paper, but maybe I'm just old-fashioned like that.

use your brain (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34006040)

Isn't that what your brain is for?

For work related items, yes I use file and folders with appropriate text/documents or calendars with reminders but for you personal life? Are you serious?

Re:use your brain (1)

Dreth (1885712) | about 4 years ago | (#34006110)

My thoughts exactly. I sense some obsessive-compulsive behaviour if there's an exuberant need of being constantly reminded and/or organized for things you like to do. These joys are supposed to come out naturally, not plan when to "drink water" or "draw a cartoon". I mess with my photos when I can and when I feel up to it, I read webcomics and slashdot-esque sites when I'm in front of my computer and feel there's no hurry to get back up, same thing with gaming, photoshopping, music searching, etc etc. It comes naturally. At least that's how I perceive it's SUPPOSED to be.

OneNote (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 4 years ago | (#34006054)

I use Microsoft OneNote. You can have notebooks for various projects, and each can have various tabs and groups of tabs. Each tab can have a number of pages (and groups of pages). Each page can be a mix of text, graphics, sound clips, etc. You can set it up so that PrintScreen captures to Onenote. Apparently, OneNote is also good with a tablet computer as it does handwriting recognition and drawing tools. It can sync with Outlook for task management.

... if only there were a good linux equivalent.

Overload (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34006056)

Important information you just know, everything else is not relevant.

What is actually the problem? (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 4 years ago | (#34006060)

For programming projects, I store them in SVN, or if they are small, I stick them in my 'programming' folder. When I check out from SVN, they go in programming too.

For photographs, I throw out all but the best, and store them in my pictures folder, with a date and descriptive name.

For languages, I keep a small notebook that fits in my pocket and every time I hear a word that jumps out at me, I write it in the notebook. Eventually all of it has to go into the brain, so that is a temporary storage (for Chinese characters, flashcards work better than a notebook). Then you can throw your notes away, and the dictionary holds the stuff you don't know.

These are all pretty standard methods.

For art, I take a picture of the stuff I like and store it in my 'art' folder. Then I throw the paper away. Part of being organized is throwing stuff away. Don't try to hold onto everything. Most of it doesn't matter. My art doesn't matter, it's just fun.

For math, try to figure out what the core concepts are, then remember which book you have to look in to figure out the specific details (of equations or whatever).

For events in life, keep a journal/blog/whatever. Am I missing anything?

important info (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34006062)

i keep my most important documents crumpled up in my important paper basket. crumpled paper makes the document more 3d'ish and easier to find. i leave determining the fractal dimension of a crumpled piece of paper as an exercise for the reader.

Manage the OCD (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34006068)

I have Asperger's and tend to be rather OCD about this kind of stuff. I managed to cut myself away from this kind of information insanity and alphabetizing everything (or putting in meticulous time order, whichever fit the documents/events) by just letting go. Throwing out stuff, and not taking new in unless absolutely needed.

Those that I need like family pictures, documents to do with work/hobbies/bills/warranties and such are organized in the simplest manner possible (iPhoto for pics, tree structure for docs). Spotlight search (Mac) used for finding stuff.
Birthdays synced to the calendar on my phone, any scheduled events likewise, and possible to take short notes on the phone if needed.

I found that I vastly prefer using a small (A5) notebook for most note taking (school/work/ideas). A moleskine (or something in that size category) fits better in the pocket, though.

By cutting down on saved/organized info I got more time to do things I actually LIKE doing (as opposed to feeling an uncontrollable urge to organize something).

I wish I could let things go ... (1)

jamesrskemp (451408) | about 4 years ago | (#34006078)

... But sadly when I read your question I thought of myself.

  It depends upon what you're tracking. Blog for writings (old school papers and new), KeePass for logins, XML and Subversion for tracking books, CDs, games, gas/fillups, technical projects, and the like. (It was Excel, then Access, then SQL, but XML is line with my technical interests and allows much more flexibility.)

  If you're thinking about using Web sites, make sure there's a good way to get your data out. Otherwise, if you're serious about it, you'll end up wasting time when a better option comes along, or you're forced to migrate.

  But if you can just learn to let things go, I think you'll be much happier.

Org Mode (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34006080)

emacs org-mode. Thank you Carsten.

I get so many emails... (1)

Monolith1 (1481423) | about 4 years ago | (#34006090)

I just leave the important emails unread on my phone until I action them.

Most of my information (1)

ToolUsr (1927924) | about 4 years ago | (#34006098)

Goes into Omni Focus

Simple life here (1)

Teun (17872) | about 4 years ago | (#34006120)

The number one solution is to have it all in one place, for me that's my laptop.

The number two is to have a solid back-up system including off site.

My photo's are so manifold that most are on a couple of TB drives, the most recent several 100GB also on the laptop.
The trick is a logic nesting of the folders, in this case first the name of the camera, then the year, next the month and possibly a subject.
When a specific subject is worth marking I append it to the number of the file, a quick CTRL+F in the file manager will bring it up.
There are document folders with distinctive names like company name, then the subject. In case of a simple thing I shouldn't forget I might send myself a mail, the Thunderbird search option is very helpful.

For the more private stuff like tax returns and banking I use a Truecrypt folder.

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