Thursday, July 28, 2016

A digital genealogy organizing project (a 3-month goal)

Now that my Organize Your Genealogy book has been published, I've been thinking more of ways to help people apply its principles to their own situations. Genealogists seem especially overwhelmed with the amount of paper and digital images that they have accumulated.

Personally, I want to eliminate as much paper from my home office space as possible, and that means scanning whatever is important and discarding the paper copies once I have the digital versions. (Yes, I won't discard those unique papers and photos, even after scanning, although I'll want to move them into appropriate storage elsewhere.)

Yet before creating even more digital documents to add to the enormous number I already have on my various systems, I need to go through and organize the ones I already have. Interestingly enough, I was listening to a favorite productivity podcast this week, The Productivity Show by Asian Efficiency, as the host interviewed Paul Akers about "Lean Thinking". Akers discussed the history of lean management, with origins in the Toyota Production System and the concept of kaizen (continuous improvement).

But what struck me was Akers' focus on a "3-S" system for improving workflow (picture a factory floor): Sweep, Sort, and Standardize. Isn't this what we need to do with dealing with our overwhelming piles of documents and hard drives full of digital files?  We need to "sweep" out the stuff that we don't need, to "sort" the stuff that remains into more appropriate piles, and then to "standardize" the binders/folders and file names so that we can find what we need when we need it.

In the next 3 months, I plan to do this with my home computer system (I'll do something in parallel at work). And you can hold me accountable as I implement this.