During the week, I spend approximately 13 hours online each day. On the weekends, it’s slightly less than that. Being a full time library cataloger and a full time graduate student in an online program comes with some considerable drawbacks, not the least of which is finding ways to organize all the data that I collect and interact with on a daily basis. Here’s how I do it:
Since most of my digital experiences happen online, I store most of my data in the cloud.
Anything I come across online that I think is worthy of coming back to later is stored using Delicious. This usually includes root level domains of websites or major directories within websites. Rarely, I will save blog posts or articles here, though the more “academic” in nature, the more likely I am to save it in Zotero instead (see below). I’ve synced my Delicious bookmarks with all my Firefox browsers so they are immediately accessible and a new site can be added and tagged in seconds.
I’ve migrated all my contact information to Google contacts: phone numbers, emails, mailing addresses. With the exception of mailing out wedding invites, every time I need an address or phone number, I’m usually out of the house. So I’ve synced my Google contacts to my ipod touch and stored them locally so they are always available even without a connection.
I practice a mix of GTD and Inbox Zero methodologies. This requires (1) action-based labels and (2) smart use of filters. Basically, everything that comes into my mailbox is tagged and marked for (a) needs action, (b) read and review, © notifications, or (d) trash. So depending on who the email comes from, whether or not I’m the only person in the To: line, what words are in the subject, etc., each email gets moved to a certain place and I deal with each batch as time permits. By the end of every day, my email box is always empty. I save whatever I would be sad to loose and delete everything else (which makes future searching much more efficient).
I just started using Evernote to collect my ideas, clippings, and drafts for blogging projects (for this site and my library blog). Evernote allows you to import any type of note (text, image, pdf, whatever) and it will index any text (even text in images). I then tag all my notes based on the context in which I want to consider it in the future (e.g. read and review, potential posts, reading notes, tumblr blog, iav blog, etc.). Essentially, this is my pile of research notes, ideas, drafts.
For any article that I plan to cite in future writings or research, I store the citation in Zotero, a Firefox plugin that will store all the bibliographic data locally and on a server. I can then cut and paste the citations into documents using any of the usual formats (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.). Keeping all these together and separate from my delicious bookmarks lets me know what I’ve cited in other papers, when I accessed the articles, and in what context I used them (based on any tags or notes I added).
I’m a huge fan of the GTD methodology which stresses the importance of context over priority when deciding on task management. I use Remember the Milk to create lists of tasks based on project-type (research paper, home repair, blog work) and context (online, errand, at work, at home). RTM also allows me to assign due dates, repeating tasks, durations, and more. Using these tags, I can create smart lists such as: a list of any tasks that are time sensitive, can be done at home, and in under 20 minutes… a great way to decide what to do when you’ve got a few minutes to waste before going to see a movie.
I also use RTM to store all my simple lists such as: (1) CDs I want to check out, (2) things I need to buy, (3) gift ideas, etc.
Most of the files I store on my local drives are archived items: things I don’t plan to access anytime in the 6-12 months (or ever again). This includes old research papers, pictures, raw data from financial statements, etc. Nonetheless, the information is important, so I have a regular backup schedule that utilizes SyncBack to save specific folders to an external drive and Dropbox to save specific folders to a server.
Monthly: music and pictures. These items don’t change often and I rarely add a lot of new content to their folders so at worst if I loose a month of data, it isn’t that much. These files are backed up to the external drive.
Weekly: archived documents. I set up a document folder for any files I am no longer working on or don’t plan to work on in the next 6 months. These are backed up to the external drive.
Daily: Anything I am currently working on is stored in my DropBox folder which instantaneously syncs those files anytime a change is made to the file (i.e. you hit the save button). So all of my current school projects are stored here. These files are synced to a server online so I can access them from any computer.
Online data: Additionally, there is some online data that I save to my local drive, such as financial statements and my blog XML files. These files are archived in my documents folder and are additionally backed up to the external drive weekly.
You gotta have a system and this is mine. What’s your system for managing all your data?