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13 Mar

Place the most recent to the left

Datum: 2017-03-13 14:25

A great thing about dig­i­tal mate­r­i­al is that you can do a search for it. Or rather, we can let the com­put­er search for it, and either do some­thing else or get anoth­er cup of cof­fee while wait­ing for it to locate what we are look­ing for.

Papers and oth­er phys­i­cal mate­r­i­al is a whole oth­er sto­ry. Sure, there are cum­ber­some index­es and search reg­is­ters, but most of us try to orga­nize the binders, the phys­i­cal fold­ers, the mag­a­zine hold­ers and all those oth­er places we store non-dig­i­tal ref­er­ence mate­r­i­al some­what logically.

It stands to rea­son that we ought to dig­i­tal­ize as much of our now phys­i­cal mate­ri­als as pos­si­ble, but judg­ing by what I see in the offices and orga­ni­za­tions I vis­it in my work, most of us still have to deal with a con­sid­er­able amount of papers.

What’s the per­fect order?
But what can actu­al­ly be con­sid­ered being orga­nized and what is the opti­mal order? What should we sort by? What are some rea­son­able and use­ful cat­e­gories to cat­e­go­rize by? What should stand, lay or hang where? So many deci­sions. And so, oh so very, tempt­ing to just put it all in a pile for now. But if we do, it will most like­ly remain there.

In favor of shortcuts
The Japan­ese econ­o­mist Yukio Noguchi seems to have the same pen­chant as myself for mak­ing things as easy as pos­si­ble. He has there­fore invent­ed a way of stor­ing his papers that makes the deci­sions regard­ing what order and cat­e­go­riza­tion that are best, obso­lete. The method is sim­ple and we can either apply it in its entire­ty or select the parts that suit us.

Do this

  1. The papers and doc­u­ments you need to save some­where and make eas­i­ly acces­si­ble for lat­er are put in fold­ers. These need to be stiff paper fold­ers, because they need to be able to stand on their ends. Hang­ing file fold­ers in a stor­age cart works too. The fold­ers can rep­re­sent dif­fer­ent projects, cas­es, sub­jects or what­ev­er you would write on tabs in your binders.

  2. Place the fold­ers on their ends in your book­shelf and write on the side that sticks out what the fold­er con­tain. Or, attach labels on the side of the fold­ers and you will eas­i­ly see what they con­tain. If you use hang­ing file fold­ers in a set of draw­ers or a stor­age cart, you will indi­cate the con­tents on the labels stick­ing out from the fold­ers as per usu­al. Do not try to think of a par­tic­u­lar or per­fect order to place the fold­ers in, but just put them in the book­shelf or cart as you cre­ate them.

  3. When you have fin­ished mak­ing fold­ers and fill­ing them with their appro­pri­ate con­tents, you just get back to work.

  4. When you need a fold­er, you take it out of the shelf or cart and work with it.

  5. When you are done using it for now, you put it back, but not where you took it. Instead you place it to the far left, mean­ing at the very end of all the fold­ers on the left side. If you use hang­ing file fold­ers, just place the fold­er so that it it now hang­ing clos­est to you.

As time pass­es the fold­ers you use the most will be placed to the far left in the book­shelf (since you always place the most recent­ly used fold­er at the left end of the row of fold­ers). If you have not used a fold­er for a while, it will slow­ly make its way towards the right side. Even­tu­al­ly you will prob­a­bly be able to store away the fold­ers that have end­ed up at the far right end of the spec­trum since you more or less nev­er use them, and hence get more space for the mate­ri­als that you do use. If you need a file that you used a few days ago, it will most like­ly be placed amongst the first ones on the left.

The same goes for binders
If you either can not or do not want to com­plete­ly let go of your binders and only use fold­ers, then just apply the same prin­ci­ple to the binders instead. After using a binder, you sim­ply set it back on the left end. After a while you will have the binders you use the most gath­ered on the left end of the row, and will be able to put away those you nev­er use which are now fur­thest to the right.

You could apply the method to all kinds of phys­i­cal items, such as tools or oth­er things you some­times need to take out and use while working.

Less sort­ing
If you use Noguchi’s sys­tem of stor­age you will spend less time putting back what you took out, since you will not have to remem­ber or look for the spot where you took the fold­er or binder from — you sim­ply place it on the left side. The risk of mak­ing those treach­er­ous will sort soon”-piles decreas­es and you will more like­ly have an emp­ty desk more often, which in turn makes you less dis­tract­ed by ran­dom items or doc­u­ments lay­ing about. You will find what you look for faster, since most of the times you are look­ing for some­thing, it will sim­ply be to your left.

Look­ing for things will some­times the a bit longer, when you are look­ing for some­thing you do not use very often, since it will then be some­where to the right: but on the oth­er hand, you will not have to look for these fold­ers very often.

What is your method?
Have you orga­nized your phys­i­cal mate­r­i­al by using some oth­er clever method? Leave a com­ment and share your thoughts.