What is my PKM system
As with many people, I have attempted to be fairly organized about filing electronic (and paper) stuff in logical ways. I find that as I move into new areas, I need new structure to my systems. I have always had the challenge of remembering old categorization schemes, or where an item might be in a long-unused set of folders. With paper, it is somewhat easier, because I attempt to keep my financial statements and other important stuff filed into one drawer of a filing cabinet.
My personal process around this stuff is the 4 D's model: Do, Delete, Delegate, Date Activate. The idea behind this and some of the others mentioned in class is to read the item one time and decide what to do about it and when. When I get away from this discipline, I find myself reviewing messages that sit in my inbox and try to remind myself why I kept them there. This may only take a moment, but those moments pile up and eat into time that could be spent doing other things. They also break any rhythm I have set up around getting other work done.
As much as possible, I attempt to convert written notes to electronic notes. I do this for several reasons: to help remember when I did something; to keep all my notes in one place; and to help digest what I've discussed and written into my notebooks. My paper notes tend to be a mishmash of everything in anticipation of being re-written into Outlook. The biggest limitation in this model is that it is difficult to add graphics and drawings to my electronic notes. (It's possible to create them in another tool and then paste into Outlook, but that is usually not worth the effort.)
I also keep this weblog where I talk about knowledge management and personal effectiveness and other topics of interest to me. While I don't use my blog explicitly as a personal memory system, I certainly refer back to items I have written. A big aspect of why I blog is to extend my personal world out into the wider world. In combination with the blogs I read, I have made connections with people that I never would have met otherwise.
Tool-wise, I use Outlook to manage email, contacts, tasks, calendar and notes. And I attempt to keep them all as inter-related as possible. Everything in Outlook can have a category associated with it, so I tend to tag all my tasks, notes and contacts with meaningful tags. My calendar view shows upcoming appointments as well as those categorized tasks.
The email flow is managed with rules that file mailing lists into their own folders, which I generally read only when I explicitly make the time to do so. This keeps my inbox to a manageable size. I also have a trainable spam filter that catches the stuff I really never want to see. (Unfortunately, it will catch real mail from time to time as well, so I have to review sender/subjects before deleting them outright.)
Outlook is also the home of my web feed aggregator, Newsgator. It slurps news from over 200 sources, and I have those sources categorized by topics. I have prioritized those topics, so that when I don't have time, I only read my higher priority feeds in full. The lower priorities tend to get a quick review of the subjects for interesting-looking items.
For 90% of the rest of my filing, I use PersonalBrain, rather than the traditional tree-based folder system. Rather than being connected by folders, everything is a "thought" with "parents," "children," and "related" thoughts. And this particular tool lets me connect files, notes, websites and any other item in the same way. For example, with the KM2 class, I've got a thought that is the "Student Journalism" word document. Connected to that, I have a thought for each week, and I will drop the student reports into each week. That sounds like traditional tree structure. But now, I will also create thoughts for each student and link their journalism reports and any e-mailed documents to their name. This means I can be viewing all the reports for a week and then quickly shift to all the items sent by any of the reporters. Interestingly, I have found that I use PersonalBrain only in circumstances where I am dealing with a lot of files. When I am operating mostly within email, I tend to file items within Outlook. (PersonalBrain can take Outlook items, but the integration is not as clean as I would require.)
I have two tools that help me "find stuff" on my machine. One is Lookout for search. It is embedded into Outlook and gives me search of all my Outlook items plus all files within My Documents. This is a much faster search than the built-in search tool within the operating system. And as it is embedded in Outlook, I can get to it quite easily. (Lookout is a precursor of the current spate of desktop search tools. It was bought by Microsoft, who have created the MSN Toolbar that does desktop search. Here's a Desktop Search Matrix comparison of the ~20 tools available today.)
The other important tool is ActiveWords. ActiveWords lets me create "sensitive" words or phrases, such that when I type them and hit a special key, a special action is fired. This may be anything from opening a frequently-used file, to logging into Bulletin Board, open an Outlook contact, to a common text substitution. And if I enter a new phrase, ActiveWords starts a Google search for me. This means, I don't have to switch to my browser or take my fingers off the keyboard to do a search.
I use ActiveWords and PersonalBrain so much now that I hardly use the bookmark feature of my web browser. If it is a site I plan on visiting again, I will create an ActiveWord for it, or I will drop it into PersonalBrain for easy recovery, or both.
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