10 weeks of PIM (almost): My take-aways

After almost ten weeks of reading, discussing, and experimenting, my seminar, the Future of Personal Information Management, is drawing to a close. Sadly, I’m missing the last wrap-up class so this post will stand in as my final thoughts.

My first take-away – don’t be afraid to experiment.

The one sticky point about PIM is that we have all developed our own ways of doing things over the past 20, 30, 40 plus years. A person has worked hard to figure out a set up that works for them. Through pure trial and error, we have figured out what works well enough and what does not. It is hard to let go what works well enough for something that might work better, but could also be a colossal failure which might means we lose something or miss an appointment or be out the money we paid for that new app.

Personally, I let go of a few old habits. I found a new tool for my task management, OmniFocus, and let my old paper planner die a lonely death (I actually don’t know where it has gotten to. Probably under the couch.)  OmniFocus on the iPad has been a great success. It even looks like it will smoothly make the transition from managing my school assignments to my internship/ work tasks during the summer.

The second habit I have let go of is my laissez-faire management of my email inbox.  I noticed halfway through the term that I was having a hard time refinding emails that I wanted/needed. This is a huge red flag in PIM. If you can’t find it easily later then something just is not working. I decided to remedy this situation by finally figuring out Gmail’s labeling system. Now I didn’t go from my previous state of reading all email and letting sit in my inbox to a total labeling addict. Basically I created a few basic tags that will help me group important emails together. I created one label for my internship this summer and another for job info (job help sessions & job announcement I’m interested in for example). This will help replace my frequent “starring” of emails since I realized I was staring so much I had to use Gmail’s search feature to find emails within the starred category. This new habit has also been a success. I have been able to quickly and easily find emails that I need to consult. I will most likely stick with this system and add new labels as the need arises.

Since my two experiments have ended happily, I believe I will embrace experimentation in the future. Yes I have figure out many management activities that have worked well enough so far in my life, but I really do need to be open to change since I will soon move from the school environment and into the work environment which will have a host of new PIM challenges.

Second take away –  don’t be afraid to discuss PIM .

In our last class, we discussed how PIM as a discipline is not very widely known. When a popular news source does run a story about PIM, it is not usually named as such. We as a class discussed how we all need to be more open about our information management. By sharing tips, tools, and apps, you might actually help a friend, relative, classmate, or a total stranger improve his or her information management. I have know found myself being oddly fascinated by everyone’s information management styles. For example, I noticed a man at my local coffee shop take out a composition notebook. When he opened it I say that he had pasted or taped newspaper articles to the pages (like a low-tech version of Evernote or OneNote). I was so tempted to ask what the purpose of the notebook was. Were the clippings want-ads? My inner compass of socially acceptable public behavior won out and I didn’t pose the odd question to the stranger at the next table.  I’m still wondering about his unique approach to PIM, and if he would have been open to a computer tool that would have accomplished the same aggregation activity. Would he have thanked me for making him aware of such tools?

Overall this class has taught me to be aware and sensitive to PIM practices all around me. This can only help me as move forward in my career as an information professional. Not everyone organizes and keeps their information like I do and we can all continue to learn from one another. (Whether in a group project, work environment, or in a patron/librarian transaction)

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