Digital reference files: how do you approach it?

Discussion in 'PUBLIC: Discuss Tools & Software for GTD' started by GTD123BRO, Mar 29, 2018.

  1. GTD123BRO

    GTD123BRO Registered

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    Hi all, I'm just getting into GTD and I'm just getting my systems together. Because I travel fairly often, I think digital filing will be, for the most part, what works for me. Cloud based is..ok...but I'm a little security conscious (or paranoid, maybe haha). It's good enough if I just have access to most of my files on my main computer - but I'm open to any suggestions as cloud based is probably the future anyway.

    More so, I'm just wondering what a good way to structure all this is. The GTD book lays out filing methods in the real world but I don't remember it covering much on the digital world.

    How do you manage your digital reference files and make it easy for yourself to find what you need when you need it?

    Thanks!
     
  2. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    There are a number of long posts by me on this subject around on the forum.

    The short form is:

    I am extremely cloud averse. Not just for security but because I live in a rural area which does not always have Internet access. So I do my digital filing almost entirely on my own machines.

    Define a clear naming scheme that is platform independent in case you switch operating systems. (no spaces in file names for example so I could switch to UNIX if necessary.)

    Define the naming system so that looking at a name will get you most of the way to knowing what's inside the folder or the file.

    Standardize how you will use dates if any and what formats keeping in mind how computers sort things. (Most of my date specific items start with a filename of YYYY-MM-DD_<filename>.<suffix>)

    Standardize on a few simple file types. (I use LibreOffice, Scrivener, PDF and AeonTimeline as my main file types.)

    Define a very flat filing system that mimics a flat paper system. (only 1 level of folders in the "File Cabinet")

    Create a folder for current active project support material.

    Decide whether to lump all someday/maybe and waiting for files into the main system or into separate folders.

    Decide what parts of the system need to be mobile. (I use DEVONThink for all electronic filing I need to have with me all the time.)

    Plan for a robust backup system that you also test regularly. (An untested backup is worthless. Make sure you can actually retrieve files from you backup by testing it.)

    Plan for how to review the filing system to remove unneeded files on a regular basis.

    And from experience:

    When switching from whatever you are using now to a more complete and well defined system dump everything into a new folder called backlog and explicitly move files out as you rename them and decide where they should go. I didn't and I'm still weeding out the junk within my otherwise nice clean system.
     
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  3. sholden

    sholden Registered

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    On my work computer I just have a folder called Reference and I dump everything in there and organize that top level folder by year. I find stuff in reference using Search.
     
  4. JodieFrancis

    JodieFrancis GTD Novice

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    GTD123BRO, I used to use Evernote premium for all project support and reference like web clippings, someday/maybe, journal entries, and digital copies of account statements -- I love the full-text search capability! I used Dropbox for sharing, for photos and for other material that was more logically file-based.

    About a year ago I became quite concerned about the security of the cloud and discovered Sync.com. It is a Canadian service with end-to-end security including while in place, and pricing was comparable (or better) than Dropbox. I've moved out of Dropbox (which is based in the US) and have removed all personal information from Evernote (also based in the US). I still use Evernote for project support & reference, but anything of a personal nature is locked in Sync. Dropbox is used to share files if the other party requests it, otherwise I use Sync sharing (where I can share only with specific people, and set a an expiry date on shared links).

    Sync also does versioning automatically (maybe Dropbox does too, I can't recall). Security features are explained here:
    https://www.sync.com/your-privacy/
    And no, I'm not an affiliate, just a happy customer :)

    As for folder structure, I think it is a matter of personal preference. This is what I use in case it helps:

    Home Business
    <mother-in-law>
    Family
    - Music
    - Software downloads
    - Photos
    - <folders for each year>
    - Annual files
    - <separate folders for each year - easy to delete after 7 years>
    - 2018
    - Pay stubs
    - Investments
    - Statements
    - Confirmations
    - Bills
    - water
    - hydro <etc>
    - Insurance
    - House
    - Car
    - Taxes
    - Reference - short term
    - great for access to vacation-specific info while traveling :)
    - project files could be here instead of my personal area below
    - Reference - long term
    - Personal - DH
    - Personal - Kid 1
    - Personal - Kid 2
    - Personal - Me
    - Project reference
    - Project 1...
    Shared

    Incubate & Someday/Maybe are still in Evernote, in notebooks of that name. I'll probably leave them there, for the full text search.
     
  5. John Ismyname

    John Ismyname Registered

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    Hi Jodie; I am a Canadian too. I have been using an American service called Carbonite, which automatically backs up MOST of my hard drive to the cloud. I use Dropbox and have security concerns. I have maxed out the free space offered. I'm looking to use Sync to sore everything on my hard drive via running a script daily that will do this. Do you use Sync this way?

    P.S. When I checked Sync's web site I was thrilled to see that a co-founder is Thomas Savundra. He use to run a web-hosting company out of his basement when I first started using him as a vendor!
     
  6. TruthWK

    TruthWK Registered

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    I just made a switch in this area today as I realized something. Put this as still in test mode but I'm excited about it. I switched my work system from OneNote to just using....Windows Explorer, Microsoft Office and OneDrive. Of course this would work on a mac as well. I am going to use Google Drive for my personal system when I get a chance to move that. I realized that a few things were bothering me and a new and very simple way to solve them.

    1. Limited and inconsistent hierarchy. In OneNote, Evernote and other apps I've tried, you always have Notebooks, Stacks, Lists, Projects, Sections, Links, etc. I try to limit my hierarchy of things to 3 levels deep but trying to jam this into the above list of elements in different apps was annoying. I realized from rereading the Organize chapter in GTD today that these all can be represented by Folders. David mentioned that all you really need is folders and lists. In the digital world, I started thinking that all I need are folders and lists of folders, which are just folders too. So all I need are folders in that vein.
    2. I wanted to be free to add a bunch of support material to any action, project, waiting for, someday/maybe, etc without them getting lost in the shuffle. My thought process started from realizing that what I really wanted was for each of these categories of stuff to act like a folder where I can place as much as I want in them and anything I want. I can even create multiple subfolders for a project and represent large category filing. If I create a folder for each next action, then a parent folder called Next Actions, when I look in my Next Actions folder I have a list of next actions with the support materials right there. GTD doesn't require fancy due date handling and such. I can just add a Due Date to the Folder name like I would using a plain text list.
    3. I couldn't put anything into a OneNote or Evernote notebook. There would still be a small amount of stuff that didn't fit as well in there like source code, files I receive, PowerPoint Presentations, etc. I thought that I'd love to just have all that reference material in one place. Folders let me do that. I can put any file in a file folder.
    With those problems solved, I thought that there would be a drag with not using a notebook app where switching between pages and sections were quick. I'd have to double click on a file and open it and wait longer for Word or Docs to load it and that would create too much drag in the process. However, after actually trying it, I realized Word only loads slow on the first file. Also, I realized that both Google Drive, OneDrive and Windows (not sure about Mac) let you see a preview image of many files when looking at them. This made it easier to see if a file had what i wanted. You can also set up the view to have a larger preview image show up on the right. This actually made it easier to find something than in a notebook app.

    Anyways, like I said, I'm still testing this but it might work real well and it's also free with Windows and very cheap with Google Drive if I go over my 15 GB. Not a problem with OneNote but I've found myself hitting Evernote's free limit. Also, I don't have to spend money on an expensive to do application. Back in the day, I could spend money and try out new apps. Usually this led me to wasting money because I'd switch so often. Having the constraint of wanting to stick to a budget has made me smarter and more judicious about my system. I've tried my best to capture the simplicity that David Allen talks about where I don't get distracted by something having a bunch of features that can be traps to wasting time. That last point has been important with my personality because I tend to let myself want to play with every little feature and get sidetracked.

    Side Note: Still using Outlook/Gmail for Email. That doesn't really change or I haven't thought of a good way of unifying email/folders yet that works for me.
     
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  7. JodieFrancis

    JodieFrancis GTD Novice

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    Hi @John Ismyname ,
    I've looked at Carbonite in the past and ultimately decided it wasn't worth the bother. Currently my data is all in the cloud, and apps are either web-based or can be easily re-downloaded by logging in to the provider's web site. So I don't bother with an image backup, and don't have any local data to back up.
    I don't imagine Sync would work too well for that purpose. It may be the encryption, but I find when I'm working on a large file (digital scrapbook) saving directly to Sync, the software hangs waiting for the file to save. One option is to temporarily pause the syncing, which is easy to do. Another is to use a working directory on my PC and copy the file to its proper place in Sync when I finish.
    Incidentally, the effectiveness of this approach was tested recently when I had to re-build my laptop (thank you, Windows Update). It took a couple of hours but wasn't too arduous. Which reminds me, I do need to make a bootable usb stick...
     
  8. John Ismyname

    John Ismyname Registered

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    My beef with Carbonate is that it does not ingeniously back up certain file types (i.e video files). Likewise, native windows does not necessarily copy everything with a copy command. I'm thinking of using a "dropbox like" service - where the interlace is a windows/dos drive and using a DOS command that will copy everything on my main drive to this back-up drive.
     
  9. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    Further update, In addition to my main files on my main computer I have smaller digital files and notes in DEVONThink that I can sync with my mobile devices. The filing system is the same though, very flat and I do not use DT to index files.
     
  10. ontherun

    ontherun GTD Connect

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    Just did the same exact thing, and I got more clarity out of it! My mind seems to like it! =)
     
  11. TruthWK

    TruthWK Registered

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    I'm curious what you were using before @ontherun
     

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