One Text File to Rule Them All

I have to admit that despite my previous blatherings about my text-file system, I--for the most part--have given up keeping track of my todo list in text files, or as blog posts on the other blog. My down-falling, was, I think, that I tried to organize what I was working on too much, rather than just let things flow, and ultimately tried to over-organize the lists, or the process, to the point that maintaining the list became too much of a chore in its own right. So I ditched it and went back to the paper notebook, and in an odd way, let my project planning guide my lists, in a frightfully disorganized, but ultimately useful mode.

Then I read a post on 43Folders, and remember something about file organization that the obsessive compulsive in me forgets: if you have good search tools, and you're at least vaguely consistent, you can be as disorganized as you want, because you'll still be able to find everything. Often faster if it's all in one file.

This is opposed to the other school of thought on text file organization, which is, make lots of little text files and put each project/object/etc in it's own file. The problem with this, from where I'm standing is that with every object/chunk that you add to the system, you have to decide weather or not the chunk "counts" as something desecrate or not.

So I've tenuously started a text file. I'm calling it, codex.txt. and I'm just adding to it as I need to take notes, and add items. URLs of things that I need to do, the beginnings of emails, snippets of emails that seem important, and so forth. The only tricks" I'm using are, line folding so that I can hide parts I'm not working on when I want to, as well as basic markdown formating so that I can produce html or PDF files should I need to.

The result? I like it. The lessons, in summary:

  • Don't over organize, it can get in your way.
  • Work with your brain, not against it. Chances are, you're pretty organized as it is, even if you don't think you are. Don't fight this, as it can make your life more difficult.
  • Use good search tools to do your work for you. This includes spotlight in OS X (and similar technologies in other operating systems,) but mostly your text editors "find" or "search" options, as well as tools like grep, which should be available on all operating systems.

To be fair, it's not this simple, because I'm not living in one, and only one text file, essays, stories, and other more isolated projects (like this article), get their own text file, and some larger projects, like Station Keeping, or my current fiction writing project, have a cluster of similarly named files. In GTD terms we're talking about using a single big file for project planning, research, and collection, and then "working" in different files.

But that's me.

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