What is the best (digital) organization system?

Have you read David Allen’s Getting Things Done (affiliate link)?  Many tout it as one of the best organization systems out there. I love the idea behind it, but the complexity of his systems overwhelms me. I know that I would only follow through with his suggestions for a week, or a month at most, before it all fell apart due to lack of maintenance.

Haven’t we all done this at some point? We develop a carefully thought out system or process. We spend a ton of time getting it set up. Then it falls by the wayside for one of a million different reasons: needs changed and the system didn’t, technology changed and we didn’t keep up, it was a more complex system than we actually needed, sheer laziness, etc.

How can we know ahead of time what the best digital organization system is – for our personal needs?

It’s simple:

The best organization system is the one that you will actually use. 

A few years ago, I had to admit that my own information management system had gotten a little out of control. I woke up one day and realized that I had stuff saved in Google Drive, Dropbox, random draft emails (on six different email addresses), in Asana, on scratch paper strewn around my house. I was also taking notes in Evernote.

At one point this worked. Sort of. There was at least a method to the madness. Eventually, it became clear that while it may have been working, it was only working well enough to get me by – not well enough to move me forward.

I had all the information I needed, but it was taking me way too long to find what I needed amid the clutter.

It was time for some digital housecleaning.  

Since this is common problem, I assume many of you are experiencing or will experience the same thing.

Organizing clutter doesn't solve the underlying problem. | strategysarah.com

Here’s how I started: 

1. Clean up and streamline a little bit at a time.

Based on my own past experience and from working with clients is that complete overhauls are much more likely to fail in the long term. My computer archives (and many of yours!) are littered with the dried bones of abandoned and half-implemented organization and filing systems.

Some of the time the systems never worked from the start. Other times, the systems worked well when first set up, but weren’t sustainable. (Side note: I love Debbie Roes’ blog, Recovering Shopaholic, and always gain insight that goes far beyond clothing. One of my favorite things Debbie talks often is that extreme changes backfire over time. Slow changes tend to be most successful in the long run.)

2. Organizing clutter doesn’t solve the underlying problem.

Getting rid of clutter does. I started with a few digital purges, and it felt great. Then I needed to clean up what’s left, get rid of some more clutter, and streamline a process that worked for me, at that stage in my life.

3. Choose one primary information system.

Come back next week and I’ll share my systems and tools ecosystem.

Need help getting organized?

What’s the number one organization tip or advice that’s worked for you?

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