43 Folders

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43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

In praise of the junk folder

I often end up using my Desktop as a parking lot for current files. Not exactly an inbox, but given how easy it is to hit CMD-D in a dialog box, it’s where a lot of tmp files, exported jpgs, and assorted stuff naturally ends up. Still, I find it distratcting when too much stuff accumulates there, so I also keep a “Junk” folder on the desktop.

“Junk,” my mounted drives, and my downloads folder are all I want to see permanently on the Desktop, so I label those items a certain color. When things start feeling a bit crufty, I open a new list-format Finder window showing the desktop, sort by color, and grab anything that’s not my permanent label color.

I drag that all into the “Junk” directory, which I’ve set to do an automagic PsyncX backup to an external drive every night. That way, I can prune the local junk folder without ever worrying I’m throwing out something important.

It’s more of a mental crutch than a really useful hack, but I find it an efficient way to deal with stuff I don’t want to devote much thought to. And, at least once a month, I do end up wanting something that I thought was “junk,” in which case I always know exactly where to look.

[BTW: this is a classic TMTOWTDI: there are a bunch of OSX apps and Applescripts that can help you do this automatically. I just prefer this more hands-on way. Feel free to nominate your own cleanup tips in comments, of course.]

Paul's picture

Merlin, thanks for the site...

Merlin, thanks for the site and the pointer to GTD. As a result of reading your site, and doing some footwork research on the book, I decided today to go out and get it myself and see how it works for me. I'm notoriously bad at my time management, in part due to procrastination, in other part because I just plain tend to forget to do things. All the advice I'd been given in the past was just flim-flam compare to what I'm reading here about GTD.

I also do the "junk" style folder, though I tend to have a few project-related folders to sort things into, depending on what work projects i'm handling at the time. the rest goes to a more general folder that i just toss to the back of the hard-drive once in awhile. it gets cleaned out occasionally when i start wondering where i put something a few weeks ago. i almost always find it in there, and then begin a 5-minute clean out of .zip files of 6-month-old software downloads.




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