Without organisation there is chaos. A sheet of paper becomes a pile of paper. A single rubber band snowballs into a tangled nugget of desk gold. A lone file on your computer’s desktop multiplies into an infinite number of faceless icons, blocking out the pretty wallpaper of your cat. Here are 10 popular ways of getting organised, with additional comments from my productivity-obsessed friend and co-worker, Ken.
Plus! Find out why this subject is, now more than ever, so significant to me personally…at the end of the article…
Written by Jon
1) Be Tidy
Those who know me and have seen my desk will likely have read that, scoffed, then fallen off their chair laughing and pounding the floor. However, whilst my physical desk at work is a cacophony of Nintendo toys, business cards and metrosexual accouterments such as lip balm and anti-oil blotting paper, my computer desktop is slightly more organised. The point of being tidy is not for the sheer obsessive-compulsive satisfaction; workspace tidyness (whether physical or on the computer) should be an on-going self-adjustment of making important things easily accessible and filing less-important things away.
2) Monitor Post-it Notes
The low-tech solution that everyone loves to hate. In terms of organisational darwinism, sticking notes all over your computer screen is only a couple of rungs up the evolutionary ladder from frantically scribbling things all over your hand. However, for some perverse reason…it works. Especially for those who sit in front of a computer all day, your screen is a convenient and constantly-accessible area for you to keep important to-dos.
Looks a bit untidy though, doesn’t it? I wonder if that is half the reason this solution is so popular – the visual chaos it creates helps permeate the idea that you are super, incredibly busy and sends waves of admiration and awe across co-workers and friends. The ideological Japanese equivalent of this would be something called a “hachimaki”.
A rainbow of stuff to do…
A Japanese hachimaki that reads “Success” – something a student in the past might have worn whilst studying or taking an exam.
This is a tradition in Japan that has sadly been replaced by other things (like post-it notes on monitors) but in its heyday the hachimaki was a headband that office workers would wear during times of zen-like concentration and busyness. More than just a physical aid (it is said that the tightness of the headband helped you to concentrate), it was a symbol to co-workers to show your unwavering perseverance during adversity and as a non-verbal message saying “back the hell away before you delegate me more work!”.
3) The Hipster PDA
The Hipster PDA is an “invention” from the kings of web productivity, 43folders. 43folders liken their invention to infinitely more expensive personal digital assistants such as the Palm V and they describe The Hipster PDA as…
“…a fully extensible system for coordinating incoming and outgoing data for any aspect of your life and work. It scales brilliantly, degrades gracefully, supports optional categories and “beaming,” and is configurable to an unlimited number of options.”
…and it takes the form of a bunch of cards fastened together with a clip.
It’s a tongue-in-cheek solution that actually works very well, and has a clever name to boot. It has inspired a mini revolution in the way people organise themselves on the go, and The Hipster PDA now has something of a community surrounding it, with fans developing templates to print out and even creating their own variations on the theme from duct tape.
4) A Notepad
Moving on to something a little more professional, an attractive, sturdy notepad can be both a life-saving organisational aid and an elegant, visual statement on the kind of person you are. Creative-types have for a long time sworn by the Moleskine variety of notebook (made from real mole) which comes in a variety of different paper styles and weights.
Blank paper is good for writing…
This year I bought my inaugural first Moleskine and I’m very pleased with it. It has replaced my previously employed method of organising on the go (scribbling on hands, scraps of paper, post-it notes attached to my face) in a most satisfying manner. I liken the Moleskine to an analogue version of the Apple Mac; looks good, gets the job done well and fills me with a smug sense of superiority when I see other people with lesser notepads.
5) A Whiteboard
Getting (very) slightly more high-tech, the personal or group whiteboard is a useful tool for scribbling down quick thoughts or brainstorming with – an activity that requires constant correcting and re-arranging of thought processes. Most tech or creative companies swear by the whiteboard as a method of encouraging interactive discussions within development or creative teams. Careful of letting trade secrets slip out into the public though…
6) A Physical Inbox
The ubiquitous inbox – butt of the joke of countless business-oriented newspaper cartoons, showing an inbox full of papers piled miles into the sky – and now near-defunct thanks to our new-fangled paperless offices with their interwebs and electronic mails and whatnot.
However! The physical inbox still has a place in our lives. Whereas our offices tend to be paperless, our homes do not. Sadly I still get most of my bills via snail mail – a physical inbox allows you to separate the bills from the melee of food delivery service spam that no-doubt makes up the other 70% of your post box, put the bills safely into the inbox and attend to them at your convenience in order.
7) Desktop Software
Making a giant leap for mankind, we move onto electronic solutions. There is a vast, spectrum of excellent software out there a mere google-search away, that can help you organise your life. For the mac, some popular solutions are Omni Group’s OmniPlan and newcomer Midnight Inbox (currently in free beta) which adheres strongly to the popular GTD organisational methodology.
8) Online Software
Online solutions to organisation are extremely popular, one reason being that you aren’t tied to a single device / computer. This makes all your organisational goodness available wherever you are as long as you have access to the internet.
37signals has made a name for themselves providing excellent, online solutions to organisation and productivity problems. Other popular examples include a Japanese to-do list app called checkpad.jp which also allows you to access your lists via your mobile phone, and relative newcomer and strangely-named Monkey On Your Back which is a web app that allows you to delegate tasks to other people.
9) A Phone That Is Cleverer Than You
Smart phones running powerful operating systems are becoming more and more popular as technology allows them to weigh less than a sack full of broken hammers. In the West, the ever-popular Blackberry is fast-becoming a symbol of mobile business. In Japan, a fresh crop of sexy new smart phones from Softbank and Willcom ensures that smart phone technology is still reaching a fresh audience.
Smart phones have all kinds of useful functionality for organising yourself, providing 24-hour access to your mailbox, compatibility with PIM software, desktop syncing – in addition to all the vanilla features of a regular phone.
10) Personal Butler
Ok, so we aren’t quite there yet. But soon! I can’t go out and buy my very own B9 Robot yet, but research and development is and has been underway to create robots for more domestic, personal-oriented uses. Take for example NEC’s experimental “sommelier” robot, which can taste food items or wine and give you information on them (when researchers put their hand under the sensor, the robot – rather unnervingly – said that human hand tastes like bacon…).
Other exciting developments include robot actors and the creepy-yet-fascinating “Kokoro” fembot (below):
So Why Is All This Important To You, Jon?
Well sadly folks, you just read my last PingMag article. I’m leaving IMG SRC and the PingMag team to embark on a new adventure. Ken and I (aha…that’s why he was in the article…) are about to create our own little startup, called jonkenpon and we’ll be busy thinking up and creating simple, useful and fun web tools for everyone to use – I’m really excited about it! We’ll also be launching a blog about the web industry in Asia and other stuff we find interesting, at the same address as above (if you like the sound of that, do leave your email at jonkenpon so we can inform you when the blog launches!).
I’d like to thank everyone at PingMag and IMG SRC for the excellent time I’ve had here. IMG SRC is a phenomenally cool place to work at, and the PingMag team are great fun to be around. I’ve learnt so much at IMG SRC simply from being surrounded and motivated by the best talent in our industry. In the last year we’ve seen PingMag go from strength to strength – and I’m confident it’s only going to get better and better.
A big THANK YOU to to all of PingMag’s readers and I wish PingMag continuing success in the future!
Bye for now,