real personal information management

Some of my research is in an area that is called ‘personal information management’ or PIM. PIM is about all the bits of information people store electronically: files on the computer desktop, web bookmark, calendars and address books and increasingly photos, movies and more.

However, physical information management can be just as fascinating … and a lot more creative.

Alan's to do list

I am really proud of my to do list. This took years to perfect, I tried so many methods and gave up. Electronic to do lists delete things as soon as you have done them – all you see is what you haven’t done – so depressing. I tried lists in a day book … but ended up with multiple lists on different pages as I don’t do things quick enough with stickers all over the place. But eventually, after many years … my perfect to do list … just lots of blank A4 sheets stapled together! Simple but functional. The first few pages have things that have been there for years (first entry oddly on sept 11th 2001), so only get done slowly and have few things ticked off. The last page similarly has the things just added and has only a few completed items, but when the pages in between are nearly all done I simply unstaple it, copy forward just the pages that need it onto clean sheets and staple the lot back together again 🙂

I used to tick the items off with a special red pen and it looked so good seeing all those red ticks, but when I lost the red pen (:-() changed to simply ticking off in black. But … the really good bit … when I do something that isn’t on the to do list, but really should have been … I add it and then tick it off straight away – so satisfying. It is not just a to do list … but a phew-done-it list. I even date things when I do them so if someone asks I can say “Oh yes I did it on …” and then find the relevant email … I sound so efficient!

Now I thought I was a little obsessive, but then I saw AK’s blog about her home made moleskin diary – weeks and month views lovingly and neatly drawn on squared paper, and colour-coded entries. It is amazing, outstanding … and just a little frightening.

AK's diary - week view AK's moleskin diary AK's diary - los of colours

In fact I have been the recipient of some of AKs creative energies, after finishing a paper together she gave me and Janet (her principal supervisor) pressies and mine was a handmade notebook made from the numerous drafts of the paper. She had even hand perforated the sheets so they tore out. It sits beside my bed each night to use as … an emergency to do list :-/