Thursday, October 14, 2004

Where Did I Put That?

Sometimes I lose things. I tend to think that it's largely a matter of my brain moving too quickly onto the next thing. The point is that I regularly need to go looking for something I know I've had, said, or written.

And herein lies the problem. My brain collects a lot of stuff. What I've discovered is that I hang onto trivia well because it's information that's tougher to locate otherwise. Anything I think I can look up later, I don't store in my head for very long - FIFO, you know. My brain does a good job of keeping an index of all these things, just not such a good job at tracking the location.

Google may have come up with a GPS locator for the tangible representations of my thoughts with their new Desktop Search capability. Downloading this thing, I had this vague thrill for a moment, not unlike the time I first jumped off of a 25-ft cliff into the water - an activity that was great fun and scarier than all get-out at the same time.

With the cliff jumping, I decided the "scarier than all get-out" feeling sort of took out a lot of the fun, so I stopped as soon as I could be sure I was quitting for the right reasons (fear alone not being a good reason, as far as I was concerned). I don't know yet for sure how I'm going to feel about the Desktop Search tool. Certainly I have to wonder a bit about privacy issues down the road. Of course, I also used to wonder about privacy issues using credit and then debit cards but that didn't stop me from using them instead of cash for purchases... and I still use my grocery store loyalty card even though the very existence of these things makes me madder 'n heck.

I will say that the searches I've tried so far have turned out great. I frequently remember things by a key word or two along with an approximate feeling for when. Oh, and I also tend to remember words by some odd consonant in the middle but I doubt anything will help make use of that particular facility anytime soon. Googling my desktop, I came up with good (and relevant) matches right away - much faster than normal document searches on my hard drive and the searches include my documents, my email, my websearches and (when it's done indexing) my instant messaging chats too. I'm impressed so far.

That FIFO problem also causes me a certain amount of angst when it comes to my literal desktop. I have loads of papers piled up, fearful that I'm going to forget I have this information available to me. Here's what works for me: choose a storage method that aligns with my style (I'm very visual, so storing papers where I can readily see where and what they are is better than locking information away into file drawers) and then work on organizing my papers for just ten minutes a day.

If ten minutes a day doesn't seem like much, then you've got nothing at all to lose for trying it. You'll probably be quite surprised at how well this works... and how easy it will be to stay with it because it doesn't cause a huge time crunch. Face it, you may know "exactly where everything is" but if you can't (near-) instantaneously produce what you're looking for, then you're just wasting time; spending a few extra minutes a day to save you from wasting all that time would clearly be a worthwhile investment.

You may also be surprised that I learned this little trick of spending such a small amount of time on a thing and expecting to make progress from a website on housekeeping (don't laugh, one motorcycle-riding dev dude I know is totally into the whole FlyLady routine). I hear the timers are great. You can choose their recommended 15 minutes if that works for you; in a busy environment, sometimes the ten minutes is less stress-inducing, easier to maintain and just about as effective.

How do you find stuff? Send your ideas (or your Google Desktop Search reviews) to Curious minds want to know.

Is frustration a normal part of the creative process?