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collecting Reference material or not ?

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  • collecting Reference material or not ?

    I have the following problem:

    As we receive tons of information every day, among these there are a lot of websites/books/articles which could be useful as reference material for some future project or even to improve ongoing projects.

    But it seems too much input to file it all - even writing the basic information like title, source etc.

    Is there any help on the criteria which to store and which to dump?
    (I always fear loosing something that could be helpful some day)

  • #2
    I like organising things with the minimum organisation necessary. Some examples:

    My paper bills and statements are all stored in one file. I put bills on top as I receive them and I only keep a year's worth. Say I need to look up a bill from my gas supplier. It's in there, jumbled with stuff from other companies that send me paperwork but it's a small bundle of paper to sift through. I add to that file more often than I look it up so it's good to make filing "fast" and lookup "fast enough".

    Gmail's search is so good that I don't bother with reference folders. I hit "archive" for all the emails I want to keep and I know I can retrieve them quickly with search.

    I don't sort out what receipts I need to keep. My old system used to see me sorting through all my receipts, working out how long to keep them and filing them in some complicated system. You can imagine that I never followed that system! Now I just throw the whole lot in a box labelled with the year. After a few years, I throw out the oldest box. It's a bit nasty if I need to find a particular receipt but since that almost never happens, it's not an issue.

    Maybe you could adopt this sort of philosophy. What sort of information do you end up with? If it's digital can you index it for searching? If it's paper, are there some broad categories of boxes you can throw it into?


    • #3
      Originally posted by Tom.9 View Post
      (I always fear loosing something that could be helpful some day)
      I solved the online aspect of the problem by getting a pinboard account. Very fast, lightweight storage of things I very likely will never look at again, but I'm not quite comfortable with no record of having looked at it. For more serious electronic filing, I use Evernote.


      • #4
        Beating the Anxiety of Online Reading

        Try Leo Babauta's approach: Beating the Anxiety of Online Reading:

        Originally posted by Leo Babauta
        Wipe the slate clean.

        Every day, youíre not adding to a new list on a whiteboard ó those youíve read and those you still have to read ó but instead youíre starting on a clean whiteboard. This clean board is empty of what youíve already done, but also empty of what you still need to accomplish. Itís blank, which means the possibilities are endless, and the guilt is zero.

        Wipe the slate clean every day.

        You donít need to worry about your reading lists. Mark them all as read. Donít worry about all the social media posts you havenít read. Donít worry about all the blogs there are to search through, or all the news sites there are to keep up with. Each day, your slate is clean.

        Then you can decide how to fill that slate each day, and enjoy whatever you choose to experience. Then let go, with a new slate each day.


        • #5
          Originally posted by Tom.9 View Post
          But it seems too much input to file it all - even writing the basic information like title, source etc.

          Is there any help on the criteria which to store and which to dump?
          (I always fear loosing something that could be helpful some day)
          I set up a separate DEVONThink database for those types of things and use the Safari DT Services to take a note and file it automatically where I want it. Once a season I clean it out of old junk I no longer need.

          Criteria for me are the following:

          For on-line info:
          If I got there via an obscure following of a rabbit trail I save it as a rich text with the URL included and add any notes about my thought process to the DT note.

          If I got there via a quick link from a google search and the location looks reliable I'll save the link but not the data.

          If it's a scientific paper, or a research summary or a manual I save a copy on my own system and reference it in DT.

          For paper stuff:
          I scan 99% of my incoming paper using my ScanSnap scanner from Fujitsu and then file it quickly. Originals are shredded if they contain personal data. Some originals are scanned but the original is kept in a fire proof safe (insurance policies, important certificates etc.)

          I do not do OCR on anything, it's still too unreliable for my uses even though it would make searching content easier. Instead I save scanned stuff in many separate files with descriptive names.

          I am currently modifying my procedures to include better filenames and also to use Hazel to do some automatic filing for me based on rules I set up.

          For e-mail: I save all of them and then have an e-mail archive database set up in DT that provides even more search capabilities.

          Everything that is electronic is backed up to a RAID server hourly, I have a rotating set of offsite backups of my entire hard drive as a bootable spare. Other backups include a rotating set of thumb drives with most of my day to day data and I also burn CD copies of critical data. The 2 copies are filed in 2 separate media rated fire proof safes in 2 separate buildings. Plus the most critical data are on my main machine, my iPhone and my iPad so as long as I save one of the devices I'm probably ok.


          • #6
            I think it really depends on what you're trying to capture. For example with online materials, I use one of Evernote or Delicious - if it's a website I think I might want to use as part of a theme of sites, Delicious, conversely if it's a page that I want to keep for reference, I clip the entire page in Evernote (which provides full searchability). For articles and books - I don't have too many scenarios where I need to remember these, though where I do I generally go for evernote. It's really my digital cabinet, and I try and keep as much as possible in digital format, to aid in search beyond the 'natural' filing process.


            • #7
              How quickly could you re-find it?

              For web stuff my criteria is pretty simple. If I'm looking for this information a month from now and I search for it via Google/Bing, will I find it in less than a minute? If not, I save it if I consider it something of longterm value. For web pages I bookmark, for articles I want to read I save to Instapaper.

              In general I tend not to save stuff. The web isn't going anywhere so there's no need for me to store it (or save links to it) locally. There's now so much good information out there that you can usually re-find what you're looking for (or something very similar) pretty quickly.