Important Sh*t

In my line of work, trust is essential. Every time I start to speak with somebody about his/her files or documents, s/he usually gets defensive. After working at my first contract (back in 2008!) for a couple of months, I built trust with the client. One day during a casual chat, the client offered to show me her “important sh*t” drawer. I was intrigued.

We walked over to her desk. In one swift motion she lifted up her desktop calendar exposing the dark underside. What lurked beneath was a jumbled mass of papers – small scraps, large sheets and colored bits. She was an incredibly organized person so I was a bit surprised to see the haphazard array hidden from sight. Once she started to explain what she used it for, it made a lot of sense.

The space beneath her desktop calendar (and I mean a literal desktop calendar, the large, paper kind that used to lay across the desk) was used for urgent and/or critical items. It was a quick access space for things that she needed to deal with immediately, or be able to find instantly.

What really sold me on her system was how it aggregated things based on need. Typically people like to categorize, or organize, things based on subject, topic, or other similar characteristics, “like with like.” By contrast, the “important sh*t” space was organized based on need, to either do something urgently or to retrieve it quickly.

Even now when I think about this system, it still makes a lot of sense to me. In fact, I use and create similar systems. For example, most software applications have a space readily available to showcase “recently” used documents or files. Whatever you are actively working on is conveniently accessed with one click. This saves you time from having to search for the document, or to drill down several folder levels to open it.

When I reorganized my bathroom, I designated one box for “quick access – use first” items that I use daily, or will expire soon. Though to an outsider, it may look like a box of random, mismatched items.

In essence, Important Sh*t drawers (or folders) should be used for dynamic content. By dynamic I mean the content should be changing as you deal with your urgent items and move on. If that’s not what it is, then it’s just another junk drawer.

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