American Madness

Intelligent Criticism in the Service of a Better Nation




DIY Planning Templates

Posted by Josh Friedlander | No Comments

DIY TemplatesI’m a complete freak for organizational tools. I don’t subscribe to a particular system (such as Franklin Covey, which my friend Rick has mastered), but I do give a lot of thought to ease of use and effectiveness, especially as compared to slickness and coolness.

So I was a little too excited at running across D.I.Y. Templates, which features a directory of To Do List templates. They range from the quirky (the note card template seen here) to more complicated layouts that include daily or weekly timelines and checkboxes. There are forms for work stuff, finances, money, blah and even blahblahblahblah (spoken quickly).

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Lately, I’ve been thinking of the best way to organize all my contacts. It looks like Plaxo has ramped up its good idea (a simple online contacts database that updates you when another user changes his info) so that it is now just another annoying social networking site. Can’t anyone leave well enough alone?

I haven’t really used Plaxo since 2005, because the tech people where I now work are a bit overworked, I guess. I guess this because I’ve been asking them to install Plaxo on my computer since August 2005. So, they must be very busy. I doubt it’s because they are ignoring me. Who would do that?

* * *

I got on this organizational kick, oh, at birth. I’ve always made tons of lists. There’s a name for my illness. It’s not graphomania, but something like that. But my real interest in organization started during the summer I spent working at a small law firm in 1998. The head of the firm was a gravelly-voiced trial lawyer with huge presence (quite intimidating, too), but very little technical know-how. Although he could type decently, he dictated every letter and was wedded to his systems for finding files and locating client information.

For instance, he insisted on keeping all client names and numbers in a big Microsoft Word document. I thought this was an awful idea, because big Word docs can get corrupted (more often then than now) and there was no way to categorize clients and search by type. On a purely academic level, it made more sense to have the list in Excel, Outlook, Act or some other database.

But over time, I was worn down. He wouldn’t change the system, and I began to realize that having all of one’s contacts in a word doc could work just fine, because he wasn’t mining contacts for anything, he was using this ‘flat file database’ to find names quickly using Word’s search function. Even though I moved all the contacts into a database, we only used it to print mailing labels for Christmas cards and that was fine with him. It was an annoying process at first, because I was certain I could help him by getting him to use a more logical system, but he refused, and he was right.

It’s humbling to think that simpler can be better. Also, sometimes people get really good using antiquated technology and it doesn’t make much sense to update them. Like the secretaries at that law office. They had memorized all the keystrokes to the really old version of WordPefect that ran with a blue background. Getting them up to speed on Word 1997 and teaching them some of the new keystrokes (and how to use a mouse) was a really pain, and I don’t think it increased their productivity at all.

Lately, I’ve been trying to convince my current boss to stop using folders in Outlook. She has perhaps 80 folders, but the taxonomy is all over the place, and given the ability of Outlook to categorize emails (right click and choose categories and add the ones you want), she could easily save all her old emails in one folder or archive and her life would be better. But it’s an uphill battle. I refuse to think that her current system works better than what I have in mind, but maybe I’m just wrong again.

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