I would like to share with you a technique for organising information.
We are bombarded with information in today’s age. There are a lot of different pieces of data – documents, images, videos – all kinds of information and media that we need to somehow store and organise. And it’s important, when we organise it, that it’s structured in such a way that we can access what we need when we need it. There’s no use having gigabytes of recordings if you can’t quickly find and access the one 5-minute clip that you need, at the time you need it.
So we have all this different information in some form or another. And then we have multiple storage mediums. We have our solid-state drive on our computer. We have USB drives, which we can plug in, to either our own computer or another person’s computer or another device. And then we have cloud storage – services such as Google Drive and DropBox – where we can upload things to the cloud and then access them on the cloud, perhaps on our mobile phone or tablet. And we also have, more recently, some peer-to-peer systems, such as Resilio Sync, where you can sync directly between different devices, bypassing the cloud.
With both varying information and varying mediums for storing it, it can get quite confusing and messy. How do we organise all of this seeming chaos?
The technique that I’ve found useful is based on using a “schema”. I use the schema above to organise all the information I need to story across my life. For example, anything related to travel is stored in a “Travel” folder. And under that folder, there are subfolders for each trip I take. So if I take a trip to Europe, there’s a subfolder called “Europe” and so on. And there are other folders. Financial information goes into a “Financial” folder. Movies go into a “Movies” folder. And so on.
The schema is simply a set of folder names. For example:
If I want to access my personal budget, I might store it in the cloud, so that I can get to it when we need it, either on our mobile when at the shops or on a tablet device or on the computer.
Whereas if I have something a bit more sensitive, say financial documents, I might store those somewhere that’s not up in the cloud and not easily accessible, perhaps just on my local drive.
And then maybe I have very large files, such as movie files, and don’t want to store them in the cloud because it would take too long to upload and download them. So I might want to keep them on a USB drive, because then it will be fast to transfer them to someone else’s computer for viewing.
Based on the schema above, I can store my files in a folder structure that is consistent across any medium. So if I need to store a movie on a USB drive, I make sure to put it in a “Movies” folder on the USB drive. If I need to store a piece of financial data on a USB drive, I put it in a “Financial” folder. But if I need to store, say, a piece of financial information on the cloud, then I go into, say, Google Drive, and I store that information in a “Financial” folder on Google Drive.
Notice what’s the same across all my mediums? Yes, it’s the naming and organisation of the folders. So I’ve kept the naming and hierarchy of the folders the same across all mediums. But that doesn’t mean all the mediums contain all of my data. So my USB drive might not have a Travel folder, whereas one of my cloud accounts does. But overall, if I need to find any travel information, whatever medium it’s on, I know where to look. It’s going to be in a “Travel” folder.
And I have these folders – around 8-9 at the top-level so far – and I’ve built them up gradually over time. I started with about 2-3 folders and now it’s up to 8-9. And I’m trying to keep it under a limit. But as I do this over time, I’m starting to kind of memorise what the folder names are. It’s all in my head. So it’s very easy for me to find what I want. If I need to find a scan of my passport, to upload somewhere, I’ll generally know to look under “Travel/Passport”. I might search one or two locations, like say first my USB drive and DropBox, but I’ll be pretty quickly able to narrow it down and find it.
So over time, following this method, you get the best of both worlds: you can keep things in a logical, findable structure, but also keep them on the medium that’s most appropriate and/or easiest to access.