22.00.0065: Ask yourself: why am I saving this thing?

In re-doing the D85 structure I realised that the hardest part is, perhaps unsurprisingly, in the creation of your areas and categories.

This is the bit where you form the shape of your system: you decide how to categorise your life or project or whatever.

So here’s an example. On a recent episode of Cortex, CGP Grey talks about his very granular use of to-dos. (The bit is near the end.)

I found this interesting enough to want to save it. So: where?

This sort of nebulous piece of data is one of the hardest. I realised the key is to ask yourself the question:

Why am I saving it? What is its purpose?

In this case, the answer is that this might influence the Johnny.Decimal system in some way in the future. It might change my thinking; change how I recommend people do things.

This led me to the realisation that D85 needs an area for this: for the thinking about Johnny.Decimal as an idea.

That’s a long area title, and thanks to Lucy I now appreciate the value of an interesting title. So I ended up with:

30-39 The Institute 🧬

(Yes, I’ve started to use emoji in my titles. Something else I got from Lucy building her system. It’s surprisingly useful in anchoring concepts in your brain.)

As soon as this idea came to me, a bunch of other stuff dropped in to place.

Where do I store my sample Johnny.Decimal systems, the stuff I use as examples and screenshots? In the institute.

Items related to solving the edge-cases like the academic problem or the freelancer problem? The institute.

Academic papers that I find? Institute. It’s perfect.

And I’m not sure if it would have occurred to me if I hadn’t asked: why am I saving it? what is its purpose?

Looking forward to reading more of what you share.

I’ve been wondering something myself about this sort of nebulous data: what form does that data take (such as text file, note, screenshot, etc.)?

In your example, the data you want to save is the ending bit of the Cortex podcast discussing very granular to-dos (and maybe some notes/ideas about how it might influence JD in the future). How do you save this in your system?

I’ve brainstormed some ways to do this:

  1. Link to the podcast in your Index under the ID as link:: and include a timestamp to the part you’re referencing. The problem I see here is that every time you want to be reminded of that bit of data, you have to pull up the link or rely on your memory.

  2. Do step 1, but also write yourself some notes, a summary, etc. so you can jog your memory without needing to revisit the source material (i.e. the podcast). I see this being particularly useful with the one note per ID method of keeping your index.

  3. Store a .txt file (or .md, etc.) in the corresponding ID folder within your system—in your case, somewhere in 30-39 The institute 🧬. The downside here being, I can’t imagine you can save anything else in that ID folder aside from the text file (maybe you save an audio capture of the bit of the podcast?)

  4. What I’ve always done, or just summarize the gist of it in a Google Keep note that will likely never get referenced again—and if you want to reference it, prepare to spend 5+ minutes scrolling/searching for it. I suppose you could easily assign JD tags to these notes, making this approach actually useful.

Not trying to point out any flaw, just genuinely curious what your approach is—I know I haven’t considered every option :grinning:

Also relevant, and something I’m always considering with my own system, is the Collector’s Fallacy.

For me, I tend to remember that I know this thing — when the time is right, my brain will say, hey, there was that thing that Grey said on Cortex. Then the problem becomes, which episode?

That’s what these notes are for. So as long as I’ve got this tracked with a few keywords so that a search will hit it, and a link and a note that this bit was near the end, that’s all I need.

Because I’m 100% on board with the Collector’s Fallacy. Perhaps because of my personal background: my dad is, shall we say, a ‘collector’. There’s another word that begins with ‘h’ that might be more appropriate but let’s not say it out loud.

So I’m really not a collector. I’m a minimalist. I don’t believe that writing down everything you’ve ever read is useful. Because when are you going to ever read that again? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

For me, it’s the avoidance of annoyance. I know I’ll want this link later. I know I’ll never find it using the open internet. So, leave a breadcrumb.

And this is what I tend to call them: breadcrumbs. Just enough to show yourself the path later.

I wanted to share an example of the power of this question.

I am pretty pleased with the ‘abstract’ categories I discovered for my admin area, which group seemingly non-related things in surprisingly natural ways, reducing my category count from ‘I really-need-a-few-more-than-ten’ to ‘four-is-really-enough’. I will share more about my categories in a separate post.

But there were a few things that seemed to need a category ‘unclassified correspondence’. Mail from organisations I have no existing relationship with, but that happened to actually be of potential use; for example a company offering disability insurance for self-employed.

But when I asked the question: ‘why am I saving this thing, what purpose does it serve?’ within twenty seconds I knew exactly which existing thing they related to. for this example: it goes in the Services category, as simply a note regarding disability insurance; in this case, I can create an ID for disability insurance and add this to the index.md file under the heading ‘Todo’ or something.

tada; a whole category I thought I needed goes up in thin air. the category error I was making was to think that, because I had no existing file for this correspondent, it needed to be flagged as important by getting its own category, like an inbox. When a good classification allows you to think about the things itself.

So I think this is a good illustration of how we need to (re)train ourselves to think in terms of good classification. I was doing really well with my categories, but fell into the habit of using a category as an inbox. I think this is what leads to the hard drives full of folders like project_x_final_final_version_export_share_LAST. Obviously that will happen when that’s the only tool you have.

The question ‘why am I saving this thing’ is an example of a cognitive tool which allows you to organise things before filing them. As has been said elsewhere, people used to be trained to classify and organise files!

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