Thinking about reviewing archives

| geek, kaizen

I spent most of the holiday weekend organizing and backing up my files. I used VisiPics to delete duplicates and lower-resolution copies. I went through the rest to get rid of blurry pictures, and rated the pictures so that I could easily find highlights.

Although hard drive storage is relatively inexpensive, attention costs more, so I was more ruthless when it came to weeding things out. I figured that since we’ve survived thus far without a complete pictorial record of our lives, I’ll be okay even if decades down the line, I wish I’d kept this or that blurry picture of Neko sleeping under the blanket on the couch. No sense in stressing out over storage, or in overloading my ability to organize by insisting on keeping everything.

I burned my archives for 2011 and 2010 onto DVDs so that I could restore the data even if something happened to my hard disk. I also backed up my data to network storage.

With the basics out of the way, it’s time to think about what I want from my archives and how to structure things to make it even easier to work. I care the most about the following categories:

  • Blog posts and notes: I want to be able to review my experiences, decisions, and lessons learned.
  • Pictures: I want to trigger memories, particularly as I help write family stories. I want to index the pictures by person, so that I can search for combinations of people.
  • Drawings, sketchnotes, and mindmaps: I want to trigger memories and lessons learned using sketches. I also want to track my progress, which means chronologically ordering my sketches as well.
  • Book notes: I want to be able to review my book notes by topic and annotate them with questions, actions, and follow-up items. I want to slow down and take more notes while reading books, translating them into ways I can improve my life.

Archives are good for recovering data, but I wonder how I can structure things so that I can use the past to make the future even better.

Some ideas for what usefulness might look like:

  • A photograph encourages me to write a story, fleshing out the memory more; it might also get me to write that person
  • A blog post prompts me to revisit an idea and build on it.
  • A decision review leads to better decisions
  • Book notes nudge me to follow up on how I’m applying what I’ve learned, and I might reach out to people and tell them about the book

We use Bibble 5 to organize our photos. Bibble has a mode slideshow that can go through more than one slide a second, which is great for rapid review. That might be good for reviewing photographs and drawings to see if any of them trigger a quick memory or feeling. Rotating my desktop background through chosen highlights can also give me a peripheral awareness of faraway family and friends.

For blog posts and decision reviews, my monthly-ish and annual reviews are good for revisiting recent posts. Now that I’ve loaded my archives onto the Kindle, I can also flip through them while waiting.

My scanned mindmaps aren’t as useful for quick recall/addition as I’d hope. This could be because my paper-drawn mindmaps sometimes have text written sideways or upside down (yay for rotating), which is harder to read when I’m flipping through everything in the same orientation. If I stick to writing horizontally and I use bigger, more visual concepts, I can get more of an impression during a quick review. I’ve also used computer-based mindmaps like Freemind. They feel a little different, and I still have to figure out a better way to build mindmapping into my workflow.

Sketchnote-wise, I’ve learned that although OneNote’s infinite scroll of paper is nifty, I like the limits and easy review of a single screen with layers. That’s why I’ve switched to using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro for most of my sketchnotes. They’re much easier to flip through, and I can add them to presentations and yearly reviews easily.

For book notes, slowing down and using a template will help me take better notes from books. It’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. It’s not how much I read, it’s how much I keep (and act on!).

It looks like the key things I can do are:

  • Export picture highlights and set them as my desktop background. Print them for extra backup/flipping fun.
  • Import my sketchnotes into Bibble and organize them using keywords. Figure out how to set up a slideshow shortcut to review them. I’ll organize them by year, then use metadata to pull different topics together.
  • Use Picasa to tag faces in all of my pictures.
  • Slow down and take more book notes. Translate books into actions.

How do you get more out of your archives?

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