How to structure your Reference Material?

GTD recommends storing reference material in alphabetical order. Topic folders should only be created cautiously. How do you do this with digital material?

A) Put it in alphabetical and thematic folders?

\ A - C \ a.pdf
\ C - Checklists \ a.xlsx
\ D - G \
\ G - GTG \

B) Put your topic folders in the alphabetical folders?

\ A - C \ Checklists \ a.xlsx
\ A - C \ a.pdf

C) Or do you limit yourself to topic folders and save all other files directly on the top level?

\ Checklists \ a.xlsx
\ GTD \ a.pdf
a.docx
b.pdf
 

grahamen

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I find it doesn't really matter, because most digital systems can sort/slice and dice the information in whatever way you want to see it
 
Thank you for your answers. I have now opted for variant A. Each AOF forms a topic folder to separate this material (of direct personal interest) from other reference material (of general interest) according to the P.A.R.A. approach. I feel like I'm faster by clicking on one of the matching alphabetical folders than by searching. I also multiply this filing structure in OneNote and into the paper tray.
 
It's interesting that you mention P.A.R.A, Roman. For digital, I use a modified form of P.A.R.A., as follows. Projects - one folder per project, listed A to Z. Areas - one folder per subject, listed A to Z - not split by Areas of Focus. Resources - one folder per subject, listed A to Z. Archive - basically folders for completed projects and any redundant folders from Areas and Resources that I think I might need to refer to in the future. To give an idea of how I operate my version of P.A.R.A. - 'Revamp my GTD Workspace' would be a project with a folder in Projects; instructions for my particular model of printer would be in Areas; guidance on GTD would be in Resource. I try not to get too hung up on fine distinctions between Areas and Resource.
 

mcogilvie

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I found something interesting about a week ago, I think it's worth a check. https://johnnydecimal.com/
I already structure my files by Areas of Focus, I’m not having a crisis, search works well to find things. I’m glad this guy found something that works for him, but honestly, his decimal filing system violates my rule that support systems should support you and not divert mental resources away from your goals. It did bring back fond memories of the Dewey decimal system in Junior High. I moved on to Library of Congress in college.
 

TesTeq

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I found something interesting about a week ago, I think it's worth a check. https://johnnydecimal.com/
@Lauri IMHO it's a step backwards in out quest toward stressless productivity. @mcogilvie

Johnny Decimal adds unnecessary complexity to simple problem. Does he really think that it's easier to remember "11" than "Finance.Tax_returns"? His system is limited to numbers "00" to "99" (ten main categories, ten subcategories in each main category). And after this two-digit category number there's more - two digit item (folder) counter. Beyond 100 items (folders) in any category you're stuck.

"12.03 Payroll schedule 2018" is the most funny example of illogical numbering. Isn't "Finance/Payroll/2018_Schedule" simpler and better?
 

mcogilvie

Registered
@Lauri IMHO it's a step backwards in out quest toward stressless productivity. @mcogilvie

Johnny Decimal adds unnecessary complexity to simple problem. Does he really think that it's easier to remember "11" than "Finance.Tax_returns"? His system is limited to numbers "00" to "99" (ten main categories, ten subcategories in each main category). And after this two-digit category number there's more - two digit item (folder) counter. Beyond 100 items (folders) in any category you're stuck.

"12.03 Payroll schedule 2018" is the most funny example of illogical numbering. Isn't "Finance/Payroll/2018_Schedule" simpler and better?

Yes, but as I recall the original zettelkasten system used an even more arbitrary numbering system so it must work for some people. Not me, though.
 
"12.03 Payroll schedule 2018" is the most funny example of illogical numbering. Isn't "Finance/Payroll/2018_Schedule" simpler and better?
I do not agree with that.

First, the Johnny Decimal system reduces folder hierarchy strictly down to two levels (you can of course do that in other ways too) and thus minimizes clicks to reach a file.

Second, you can use it to override the automatic alphabetical sorting of computers and, for example, put "01 Finance" before "02 Car".

Thirdly, everywhere, on digital and analog media, you can very briefly refer to the location and topic: (a) In the subject of an email as a thematic reference ("12.03 [...]"), (b) in the text ("see under 12.03" instead of "see under Finance / Payroll / 2018_Schedule") or (c) with a hand note on a paper report.

In total, "12.03" seems for me a lot more efficient to write than "Finance / Payroll / 2018_Schedule". Don't forget: One can assume that over time one has learned which number belongs to which topic.
 
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TesTeq

Registered
In total, "12.03" seems for me a lot more efficient to write than "Finance / Payroll / 2018_Schedule". Don't forget: One can assume that over time one has learned which number belongs to which topic.
@Roman (German speaking) So let's agree to disagree.

Twenty years ago I've learned that people don't want to memorize numbers. I was developing a portable computer for artillery forward observers. And I followed Nokia's idea to assign a 4-digit identifier to every leaf of the nested menu tree. Nobody used these identifiers. Everybody preferred to navigate through the menu using arrow keys and Enter. And they said that such "speed access keys" are ridiculous. :(

So it's great that this numbering system works for you but I'm the last person to recommend it.
 
There's a guy named [USER=95]@DavidAllen who used to say: "Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them." For me such artificially assigned identifiers that must be remembered are "ideas" not worth holding in my mind.
I would never invest energy or feel obliged to learn this decimal code and thereby provoke an open ending in my mind. That is not even necessary.

The main advantage for me is the efficiency of only having to write "12.03" instead of "Finance / Payroll / 2018_Schedule" on a referencing sheet of paper. I don't have to memorize anything to do this. I see that in the name of the digital folder as its alphabetical name.

The fact that at some point I know without learning that a specific number stands for a specific (at least often used) place is an additional "nice to have". Neither is it anything that claims or demands my mind. Just as I know, for example, that my neighbor lives at "house number 1" without ever have learned it consciously (but regualarly have seen the number passing by his house). So it is more of a habit than an active effort.
 
Thank you all for your very interesting ways of structuring the reference and other material. I opted for a modified form of P.A.R.A.: S.A.R.A. ("Support material" instead of "Projects"). In addition, I will add a two-digit ordinal number to the directory names according to the "Johnny Decimal" principle and try not to use more than ten directories on a maximum of two hierarchical levels each.
 

Lauri

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It really does not matter how you structure your folder structure as long as it makes sense to you and you can find(and add new) the items quickly. Sometimes we need to experiment with something to figure out what works for us and what does not. In my opinion experiential feedback beats theoretical paralysis by analysis every time. Try something out and see how it makes you feel. Does it add or removes friction when using your system.

@TesTeq In the Johnny Decimal system one of the core ideas is to have an index on the folder structure (not the individual contents in the folders). That removes the need to remember where what is. | Although that adds a step that you don't have when the single level folder structure is it's own index.

There is a numbering system used where I work that makes absolutely no sense () but there is something there when it comes to the frequently used folders - you know the numbers from memory. If you add a folder in between, you lose the association where the folder is located next to. And I know from experience this causes me friction.

And you don't have to take the whole system to use, take what works, discard what doesn't.
 
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