Post Academic


Reading Getting Things Done So You Don’t Have To: Organizational Simplicity

Posted in Crib Notes,Surviving Grad School by Caroline Roberts on September 29, 2010
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Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionOne thing I’ve learned after sitting in on usability studies, which test how consumers respond to websites, is the following:

If it isn’t easy, people won’t do it.

It doesn’t matter how cool the widget you’re promoting is. It doesn’t matter how important your product is or if it is genuinely beneficial to someone. If the item isn’t easy to find or if the form isn’t easy to fill out, people will not do it. By extension, you’re not going to get organized if you don’t make it easy on yourself. Many of David Allen’s GTD ideas revolve around making filing systems easy.

Filing papers sounds as exciting as being dipped in a vat of boiling oil, and you went into academia so you could avoid being a lameass paperpusher. But Allen’s theory is solid–you won’t mind filing as much if you can file an item in under a minute. If it’s hard to file, you will let your papers get scrambled.

More after the jump! Image of a file cabinet by Elizabeth Roy from Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license.

So, in order to file an item away quickly, you need to find products that simplify your filing process. Allen offers ideas that I never would have thought of, such as leaving plenty of space in a filing drawer at all times. Why? The second that door gets jammed, you won’t feel like filing your papers. It will become an annoyance rather than a quick task. He also suggests using a labeler and an alphabetical filing system, not a topical one.

The most amazing one to me was his suggestion to use filing trays so you can categorize your tasks easily, but don’t buy a filing tray with a lip on the edge. If there’s a lip on the edge, it will be tougher to pull papers out.

What annoys David Allen might not annoy you, though. If you are serious about getting organized, consider the filing system you have right now. What annoys you about it? If something annoys you about it and it isn’t that expensive to fix, then do it. Academics are swimming in paper, so a file cabinet would be a legitimate investment in your sanity.

And the final segment on Friday … on how to handle it when a task arises.

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3 Responses to 'Reading Getting Things Done So You Don’t Have To: Organizational Simplicity'

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  1. You did usability too? That’s funny, I did a little of that when I was rating websites, and it was very enlightening.

    And yes, the “people don’t do it if it’s not easy” is one of those things that no one wants to believe (especially in academia), but is absolutely true in every arena of life. Great tips for organizing!


  2. Usability is, isn’t it? It blew my mind. I’m not a usability pro or an IA, but they always invite the writers to the usability sessions so we can find out what works and what doesn’t. The best compliment ever is: “Wow–this site gives me the information I need.”

    Regarding the “people don’t do it if it’s not easy,” have you read the book “Don’t Make Me Think”? I think the title overdoes it a bit, but that book has been a huge help for me on the job.


  3. Yes, I have. I read it after attending this bigshot SEO/SMM trends seminar at Vandy’s business school (there were some perks to being there). Definitely worth it for the reading list alone! Also, I often think overstatement is the key to writing successful business books. Maybe we should write something about how having a humanities degree is the key to being a truly modern entrepreneur…”High-tech Humanism for the 21st Century Manager.”


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