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31 Oct

Remove the irrelevant - if you can see it

Datum: 2023-10-31 09:00
Close-up of a needle in a hay stack.

Don’t you love it when some­thing we need is right in front of us, at the right time? When we need some­thing, it is right there, and we just have to grab it. Every­thing runs smooth­ly, we take each step in the right direc­tion with ease, and we work with our tasks in a steady, pleas­ant rhythm with­out interruptions.

For you who pre­fer lis­ten­ing to read­ing, this post is also avail­able as an episode of the Done!” pod­cast:

Find­ing a file

What we often have to locate in that work­flow is doc­u­ments and files. We orig­i­nal­ly saved them in per­fect accor­dance to the for­mats we have estab­lished in order for them to be found with ease — either by our­selves, or by our cur­rent and future col­leagues. We have cre­at­ed a des­ig­nat­ed spot for all the mate­ri­als that evolve around and regard­ing that one client, the project, the team or oth­er area of our work. In this des­ig­nat­ed place we save all the doc­u­ments that con­cern the same theme.

Even­tu­al­ly it becomes a bit-of-everything-location

As time pass­es, the amount of doc­u­ments increase. We per­formed the task in one way before and saved the doc­u­ment where it belonged, but now after hav­ing changed the rou­tine we do it dif­fer­ent­ly and the new doc­u­ment that is now more accu­rate, is saved in its prop­er loca­tion — but right next to the old doc­u­ment. Pret­ty soon we will have loca­tions that con­tain sev­er­al doc­u­ments regard­ing the same thing, but one will be the updat­ed ver­sion, and the oth­ers are out of date.

So when we are mov­ing along nice­ly, and are just about to find and open the doc­u­ment we need, we sud­den­ly have sev­er­al to choose from and we hes­i­tate. Which doc­u­ment was the most updat­ed one? Sure, we can dili­gent­ly include ver­sion-num­bers in the doc­u­ment names, but let’s be hon­est — how often don’t we just think of some spon­ta­neous yet ran­dom name (”_MOST_RECENT”, THIS_IS_THE_ONE”) to dis­tin­guish the most recent doc­u­ment from the rest?

We go for the wrong doc­u­ment, open an old one, skim it through and close it again, look for the right one, and lose more time and flow. As we look through an old ver­sion we come to think of some­thing that hap­pened a while back, lose focus, get dis­tract­ed and lose even more time. Or we are com­plete­ly mis­tak­en, and make addi­tions to and edit the wrong ver­sion. When we lat­er open the ver­sion we believe to be the most accu­rate one, the changes we made (in the wrong doc­u­ment) are sud­den­ly not there. Again we lose time and ener­gy hav­ing to redo our work, and won­der if there isn’t some­thing wrong with the new lap­top after all.

One less span­ner in the works

Of course nei­ther our work life nor our per­son­al lives should be a chase for min­utes and sec­onds, but there are enough span­ners being thrown in the works as it is.

Let us there­fore remove every­thing that is out of date and irrel­e­vant so that it becomes easy to find what is accu­rate and up to date. The doc­u­ments that may be out­dat­ed, but still are impor­tant, are best named some­thing that indi­cates their sta­tus. How­ev­er, any­thing that is no longer rel­e­vant could and should be deleted.

Do this

If this rings a bell, then I am sure you have already thought of a loca­tion in which you often have to sift and sort through ver­sions and where the dis­or­der con­fus­es you every time, mak­ing you think I have to sort this mess out”. Now is a good time for that.

Just take fif­teen min­utes. Have a look in the loca­tion you have in mind and either move or remove the now out­dat­ed documents.

You do not have to clean it all out or reor­ga­nize your entire fold­er struc­ture (even though it might be need­ed), but just remove the obso­lete (or place it in a sep­a­rate sub­fold­er for old­er ver­sions), and you will have made the search for the updat­ed doc­u­ments a lot easier.

If you want to, you could from here on out made a quick assess­ment of if some­thing ought to be removed or delet­ed every time you are in a place (such as in a fold­er some­where) search­ing for some­thing. If there is some­thing obso­lete that could and should be removed, do so and rel­ish at the thought of not hav­ing to spend all that extra effort the next time you are look­ing for some­thing here.

Speed and focus

If you remove things that are no longer rel­e­vant and updat­ed you will have few­er doc­u­ments to choose from and sort amongst when you quick­ly need to open the right doc­u­ment while work­ing on a task.

You will get less dis­tract­ed and inter­rupt­ed by see­ing irrel­e­vant infor­ma­tion, and you can keep your speed up as well as your focus on the task you want to get done right now.

What is your way?

How do you keep order in all the places you keep doc­u­ments in? Tell me!

(By the way, have you cre­at­ed a map of your dig­i­tal doc­u­ments to make them even more easy to find?)

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