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20 Jun

Save it for now without it becoming forever

Datum: 2017-06-20 19:41

When I a few weeks ago wrote about clean­ing up amongst files when we are vis­it­ing” a fold­er any­way in one of these newslet­ters, and asked for read­ers’ sug­ges­tions of how to keep the num­ber of dig­i­tal doc­u­ments we save and store at bay, sev­er­al peo­ple got in touch. One of them was Jonas who empha­sized the com­mon phe­nom­e­na of that we think we know if a doc­u­ment or email can be con­sid­ered irrel­e­vant and hence can be thrown away, but we are not entire­ly sure, so we leave it where it is. For now.

It remains, but not for long
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could rid our­selves of some­thing with ease and still keep it in case we need it — but only for a while? If so, we would prob­a­bly get rid of more, since we have a peri­od of safe­ty-mar­gins dur­ing which we can change our minds. But even if we use this kind of sluice, we will still get rid of plen­ty of things that are no longer rel­e­vant. The things we leave where they are for now” with­out mov­ing them into an inter­me­di­ate solu­tion, are often left there indefinitely.

Easy to throw away when it’s time
Jonas told me that if he has a doc­u­ment or email with a clear expi­ra­tion date, he has a way of noti­fy­ing him­self to not throw it away until after this date. His method is hav­ing a To be saved for a while”-folder in his email inbox that has twelve sub­fold­ers rep­re­sent­ing the months of the year. The email that he want­ed to save until March is placed in the March-fold­er. When March arrives, he deletes the entire fold­er — know­ing that he assessed the rel­e­vance of its con­tents long ago, and that he can safe­ly throw it away with­out regrets. The email is prac­ti­cal­ly delet­ed until March arrives, but he can still find it with ease in case he would need to.

Isn’t this an excel­lent way to actu­al­ly have the cake and eat it too — at least for a while?

Do this
Do you rec­og­nize the feel­ing of hes­i­ta­tion about if it is safe to throw some­thing away that prob­a­bly is garbage, but which you might still need at some point? If so, think of a way to tem­porar­i­ly save doc­u­ments and emails.

Per­haps you will fol­low Jonas’ lead and cre­ate fold­ers for every month of the year in your inbox or amongst your oth­er doc­u­ments. Anoth­er option is using flags, cat­e­gories, labels or some oth­er way of indi­cat­ing when it is safe to remove something.

Per­son­al­ly the tag-func­tion in my filesys­tem (OS X) serves this pur­pose. I now have 12 dif­fer­ent tags rep­re­sent­ing the months that I can choose between when want­i­ng to indi­cate that a cer­tain file is due for the wastepa­per bas­ket in a while. And on the first Mon­day of every month, the excel­lent file-fix­ing pro­gram Hazel presents me with the files and doc­u­ments that can be safe­ly removed and delet­ed this month. I always enjoy get­ting rid of files that are just clut­ter­ing my dig­i­tal space and make room for rel­e­vant things instead.

Easy to throw away after a while as well
If you design your own ver­sion of a struc­ture for tem­porar­i­ly sav­ing files, the growth ratio of your emails and doc­u­ments will not be as dras­tic as it has been. It will become easy to get rid of things you no longer need, even if you were not sure you could throw it away to begin with. For now” sud­den­ly has an expi­ra­tion date.

What is your solution?
What is your trick to ensure that the irrel­e­vant items get thrown away, even though you need them for a while longer? Com­ment and let both me and oth­er read­ers know your trick.