Lecture 02:

Organizing Your Digital Life

Digital Tools For Architects II, Fall 2013 Semester

Diablo Valley College, Pleasant Hill, California


"Organizing your Digital Life"

There is content on this page that is restricted to members. You must login to view this premium content.
If you are not yet a member, click here to learn about becoming a member.

Lecture discussing digital file storage, file structure and backup systems. Calendars and the "Getting Things Done" (GTD) methodology are also discussed pertaining to students and student work.

To view the lecture slides or to download a .pdf of the lecture, click one of the links below.

Lecture Notes for Lecture 2: Organizing your Digital Life

Organizing your digital life...

Flat (& Fat) Files...

Advantages/Disadvantages of Flat Files

  • Organized by similar file types... leads to a function based organization. “I’m working in Illustrator so all my files exist in the Illustrator Folder.”
  • Easy to find files of a specific type Difficult to keep projects separate...
  • Folders are very large (100+ files), takes time to find files within the folder

A hierarchy for the king...

Advantages/Disadvantages of Hierarchy System

  • Organized by projects: “I’m working on a design project, so all of my files relating to that project are in one place... ”
  • Easy to find your files Easy to keep projects separate
  • Can perform create a “smart folder”(Mac) or a “search folder” vista/win7 to find files of the same type.

Name your world...

  • Prefix: [identify project]
    • A130A_ Architecture 130 Abbott
  • Suffix: [identify edition & version]
    • _02b edition = 02
    • version = b
  • Combined: A130A_file_descriptor_02b.extension

Notes about File Names

  • File Names should not contain spaces File names can use “-” or “_”
  • File names cannot use other special characters like “/” or “?” or “.”

3-2-1 Backup!

3 copies of your files

  • One primary copy (your working copy)
  • Two backup copies

2 different mediums

  • Select at least two different mediums when you are storing data (one hard drive, one DVD, for example)
  • Any media can fail...

1 off site

  • Store one copy off site (in cloud for example)
  • If your house burns down, do you still have a copy?

I’m in the lab... what can I do?

  • One copy on your flash drive (yes, this is a given)
  • One copy in the cloud (via dropbox)
  • One copy at home (thanks dropbox!)


  • Backups must occur in the background because you will always forget to do them!

What are your options?

Built in options

Aftermarket Solutions

Online Backup

Backup Nightly!

Backup Weekly!

Backup Monthly!

Backup Semesterly!

Backup Yearly!

Off-Site Peace of mind...

Forget Forgetfulness? The Getting Things Done Methodology (GDT)

Anxiety is caused by a lack of control, organization, preparation, and action.

- David Kekich


The problem with “stuff”

  • Stuff can be physical (think: empty milk carton, unread course textbook, etc.)
  • Stuff can be mental (think: send email to Bob, talk to Grant, or anything that starts with I need to...)
  • Stuff doesn’t belong in a specific place
  • It pops up at the wrong time

Here’s how I define “stuff:” anything you have allowed into your psychological or physical world that doesn’t belong where it is, but for which you haven’t yet determined the desired outcome and the next action step.

- David Allen, Getting Things Done (p.17)

Stop trying to remember not to forget something...

  • You need to develop a system you can trust
  • Get stuff out of your head and out of your life and into that system whenever the stuff pops up!
  • Have a system that can handle both the large picture stuff and the microscopic level.

The Open Loop...

  • Your brain is great, but it doesn’t work perfectly
  • If you have an open loop, your brain will waste energy trying to remember and remind you of the open loop at the wrong time
  • Have you ever woke up and remembered something?
  • Couldn’t fall asleep because you were trying not to forget something?

Fix the problem: Capture!

  • You must be able to capture thoughts as they occur to you...
    • This can be done: Analog (with pen & paper)
    • Digital (with a computer or PDA*)

*I use PDA loosely... this includes iPhones, iPad, iPod (touch)Android Phones, Palm, etc.

Physical Inbox (capture)

  • Set up an physical inbox
  • You must review this regularly (at least once per week)
  • This is where physical items that need your attention go before you can address them

Digital Inbox (capture)

  • Set up a digital inbox
  • You can use a program to help you with this (Omnifocus (Mac), Things (Mac), Outlook (Win), etc. (see below))
  • You can set up a folder on you computer to act as your digital inbox
  • You must review this regularly (at least once each week)

Processing your Inbox

  • Start with item on top
  • Process one item at a time
  • Determine action required
  • If less than 2 minutes, do the action
  • If more than 2 minutes, record the action in system and assign it a context to be completed

Actions & Contexts (processing)

  • With all the information entering your system, you must:
    • Determine the next action
    • Determine the context in which it can be completed

Next Action (processing)

  • The next action is the next physical step required to further or complete the project or item.
  • The last example is not a physical action, therefore it doesn’t qualify!
    • “Email Prof. Adams question about Live Trace”
    • “Draw new section for my Calder Museum”
    • “Talk with Prof. Brock about materials lecture”
    • “Think about what to do on my project”

Context (processing)

  • The context is the location where an action can be completed.
  • Examples Include:
    • “On Computer”
    • “At Blick Art Supplies”
    • “With Professor Abbott”
    • “In ET124 Computer Lab”

Date Specific Actions (processing)

  • A date specific action is one that must be completed on a certain day or at a certain time on a certain day
  • These Actions (Items) belong on a calendar
  • These are typically appointments, meetings, class times, or assignment due dates

I have time... what should I do?

  • Check your system for your current context.
  • Select an item from the list and GO!

Full Capture

  • Difficult to fully commit to the system
  • Any commitment will help, full commitment will cause dramatic change
  • You have to trust the system, so you must be diligent about processing and reviewing.


  • When you review, you check items off your list and think of the larger picture

Reviewing (daily)

  • At the end of each day, look over your system. Check off your accomplishments
  • Process any open inbox items into next actions and contexts

Reviewing (weekly)

  • At the end of each week, look over your system.
  • Check off your accomplishments (projects completed)
  • Review outstanding projects and make sure they have next action steps

Reviewing (monthly, yearly)

  • These reviews are for the larger picture questions...
  • Am I doing what I want with my life?
  • Do my goals align with my aspirations?
  • Etc.

GTD for Students

  • Capture your assignments into your inbox when they are given
  • Don’t just use a planner and write down when they are due as this will invite procrastination
  • Write EVERYTHING down, don’t rely on your brain to remember something

GTD for Students (workflow)

  • Process your inbox Determine the Next Action for each assignment Determine the context in which it can be completed
  • If a Next Action must occur on a specific date, record that date on your calendar

GTD for Students (nightly review)

  • Each night (or first thing in the morning if you prefer) review your Next Actions list for what you have accomplished and check that off.
  • Make sure there are no open loops (If so, add them to your inbox or process them into your system)
  • Review any scheduled (calendar) items for the next day

An item that doesn’t require an action...

  • Save it for reference
  • Delete it
  • Let it incubate

GTD is not for everyone!

GTD Desktop Software

GTD Web Applications