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How To Organize Your Office (And Your Hard Drive)

Many office gurus recommend organizing documents by category, like financial, legal, HR, etc. But this "group like with like" approach isn't actually optimal.

Instead, for physical filing systems, use the "Noguchi Filing System." Named after Japanese economist Yukio Noguchi, it dictates:

  • Place all incoming papers in a single location, like an inbox tray.
  • Whenever you need to find a document, search the pile from top to bottom.
  • After you find it, place the document back on top of the pile.

This simple approach ensures that the most frequently and recently used documents naturally rise to the top, while rarely used ones sink to the bottom. No complex categorization needed.

Section: 1, Chapter: 4

Book: Algorithms to Live By

Author: Brian Christian

The Surprising Benefit Of Clutter And Mess

While we often aspire to Marie Kondo levels of tidiness and order, there are benefits to some degree of clutter. That's because keeping things organized takes time - time that's wasted if you never access the items again.

For any storage system, like a filing cabinet or computer memory, there's an inherent tradeoff between "search" and "sort." The more time you spend organizing up front (sorting), the less time you'll spend trying to find something later (searching). But if you never look for the item again, that up-front sorting was all wasted effort.

That's why the optimal approach is to "err on the side of messiness." Only sort and organize things that you're confident you'll need to retrieve later. The less likely you are to search for something, the more clutter you should tolerate.

For example, don't bother organizing tax receipts that you'll never look at again. But do file away important contracts you may need to reference.

Section: 1, Chapter: 4

Book: Algorithms to Live By

Author: Brian Christian

Books about Organization

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