Managing Your Life with a Simple Text File Part 2

Managing Your Life with a Simple Text File Part 2

Range Govindan
Oct 10, 2011

There are many different ways of staying organized, but none of them beat the ethereal simplicity of using a simple text file that you keep open on your desktop at all times. We've been using this simple system to keep our lives organized for a number of years. In our previous post, we showed you how to get started. Here are some optimization tricks that we've learned.

If you've never tried to use a text file, that can be edited by Notepad on Windows computers or TextEdit on Macs, then you should head on over here to see how you can get started. The process is very simple, and all that's needed is a blank page to get started. You can also use Microsoft Word and other apps to edit this text file, but we like to keep things simple and unobtrusive. Notepad and TextEdit don't use much memory, which is why we use them.

1. Erasing Information: Once you have your list going, it's time to start editing it. We find that weekly edits work well in our system, but you might want to do monthly or bi-monthly edits. By edits, we mean that we go over most of the file and erase bits that are no longer of any use. Like most information that we come across, anything that's written in these to-do files has a shelf life. One it's past, there are no reasons to keep it. Our current file has been in use for about two and half years. With regular edits, we keep it from getting too big.

2. Sections: Don't be afraid to add and remove sections of your file. By default, we keep the sections that are most edited at the bottom of the file, so they are easy to find and addend, you can also shuffle things around. Using the search function (CTRL+F or ⌘+F) you can easily find the exact information that you are looking for.

3. Be Wary of Adding Big Chunks of Text: Any information stored in this file is temporary by nature, so we'd be wary of storing anything extremely important, especially if it's found by a cut and paste, in this file. For research, academic, and other purposes, we keep separate files to ensure that our main to-do text file doesn't get overwhelmed. If you cram too much information into it, it will get confusing. As an example, we've recently spun out our diet lists into a whole separate file, because it was just too much information coupled with the other lists.

4. Important Information: Anything really important, like contact information, phone numbers and emails, should be transfered to another medium, like Google Calendar or Gmail Contacts.

5. Backup: Make sure that you backup your to-do file as much as possible. In fact, we save it every time we add something new and have it on a number of computers, ensuring that we always have a backup copy around if something fails. If you lose some information, it's usually something recent that can be reconstructed, if you play nice with your brain.

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