My mother is a secretary. She is not a personal assistant, or an executive assistant. She is a secretary. She has been one for over 40 years. She learned her skills in an era where secretaries took dictation by shorthand; secretaries enable executives to do their job, without them worrying about things such as typing, placing calls, etc. She used shorthand so often that from time to time, she would forget, and leave me a note in shorthand!
So it wasn’t a stretch to see why she taught me to be a “filer”. Everything has a place, and a label. Different colors represent different categories. Each binder sits on a different shelf for a deliberate reason. In the company for which I worked prior to founding Neuralytix, the IT staff at the company told me that I had more email folders that anyone else they had ever experienced. I was proud of this! (In full disclosure, I thought that it would make my mama proud too – can you say, only child!)
Amazingly, the 70,000 non-work emails I have accumulated over the last 20 years were filed into folders. Gmail gave me the opportunity to categorize one email with multiple labels. I was in filing heaven!
Then, one day, I decided to get rid of all my labels. Not just some, ALL!
I had gone from being an obsessive filer to being a piler. (These terms are courtesy of my friend Julie Lockner, vice president, Product Marketing, ILM at Informatica). Being a piler isn’t altogether an inappropriate description for me. In our home, I pile. I have piles of paperwork. These piles of paperwork are waiting to be … filed!
So what made me change from being a filer to a piler? Time. As effective as filing was to the retrieval of any emails for reference purposes, it was even faster to just use a simple search in Gmail.
I first experimented by creating a POP3 with Outlook to do away with folders or labels and just use Outlook’s in built search function. What I had inadvertently found was that the search functions in both Outlook and Gmail are good enough.
I try every possible add-on, plugin, or extension to improve productivity. But the sheer simplicity and integration of the in-built search functions were sufficient for me to find the emails I needed. These same in-built search functions recently allowed me to find the string of emails that defended an argument I made in support of an assessment I presented. There are so many great search technologies out there, but as the cliché goes, the “simple things are often the best”.
There are two lessons here:
- Search technologies has changed the way we organize our data, information and maybe even our lives; and
- The concept of good enough is, good enough!
More about the good enough concept in a later post. In the meantime, are youa filer or a piler?