Do you want to be productive? Then you need to get organized. Getting organized helps you do your work efficiently. You won’t waste time and energy trying to get the resources you need when you need them. You won’t miss opportunities just because you forget something.
I recently read a good book on this topic titled Getting Organized in the Google Era by Douglass C. Merrill (former CIO of Google) and James A. Martin. The book aims to help you get organized by taking full advantage of the tools the Internet era provides.
Let’s dig deeper into the book.
Inside Getting Organized in the Google Era
The book has three parts with a total of fifteen chapters.
Part One. A Panoramic View of You
1. Cocktail Parties & Cap’n Crunch – A Journey Inside Your Brain
Many people try to organize their lives in a way that doesn’t match the way their brains work. Doing that will only lead to failure. There are many limitations of your brain that you need to be aware of. For instance, the brain isn’t good at remembering. So you need to get stuff out of your head as quickly as possible.
2. Summer Vacations, Suburbia, & Factory Shifts – Overcoming Organizational Challenges in a Disorganized World
Many things that have become conventional wisdom are actually based on outdated principles. A clear example is the nine-to-five work style. It’s no longer the best way to work in the world we live in now, yet most people still do it.
3. Racecars, Basketball Shorts, & Opera – Owning up to Our Personal Constraints
You need to consider your personal constraints. Be careful though: there are assumed constraints and real constraints. You should distinguish between them so that you don’t waste time on the wrong things.
4. Climb That Mountain or Chill in the Barcalounger? – The Importance of Having Clear Goals
Having clear goals is important to organize your life. It helps you know what information to keep and what to ignore. It helps you make the right decisions. But, though you need to have clear goals, you should be flexible in your way to reach them.
Part Two. The New Organization – and How to Achieve It
5. Beyond Taylorism & Trapper Keepers – Why Search Matters
What makes the Google era different is the power of search. In the past, you needed to carefully file each piece of information in order to retrieve it. Today that’s no longer necessary. You can instead use search tools to find exactly what you want.
6. Paris, France, or Paris, Vegas? – How to Master the Art of Search
To fully utilize the power of search, you should master the art of search. Learn the tricks of your search tools to get the most out of them. On Google, for instance, there are many search operators that you can use to refine your searches.
7. Colored Markers & Filters – Making Information Stick
Remember only what you need to remember. As such, the first thing you should do is filtering. Having clear goals helps you decide what to do with a piece of information.
8. Day-Timer or Digital? – When, and When Not, to Go Paperless
There is no such thing as a perfect organization system; you should find the system that works best for you. This also applies to the choice between paper and digital tools. There are areas where paper is better (such as for taking quick notes) and there are areas where digital tools are better (such as for manipulating data).
9. Beyond Send & Receive – Turning Your E-mails into a Searchable History That’s All About You
Your e-mail account is a key part of your organization system. Gmail is especially good for this because it has features like label, conversation, and advanced search that make it easy to organize your data.
10. Thanks for Sharing – Why You Should Keep Your Calendar in the Cloud
Google Calendar is a good tool to manage your calendar because you can create multiple calendars in it and share each of them with different people. This way you share only the part of your schedule that’s relevant to someone.
11. A Browser, an Operating System, & Some Cool Stickers – Organizing Your Documents and Web Content
Do you want to create a document collaboratively with other people? Google Docs is what you need. You can use it, for instance, to create meeting notes that every participant may edit. You can also use it to create personal documents.
Part Three. Overcoming Challenges, Big and Small
12. Avoiding Brain Strain – Strategies for Minimizing Distractions and Staying Focused Throughout the Workday
Shifting contexts – especially if it happens frequently – is harmful to your productivity. You need focus to get things done so minimize distractions whenever possible. If distractions do happen, minimize the effect by making the transitions easier for you (for example, by making notes of where you are before moving to something else).
13. Checking E-mail from the Beach – How to Integrate Work and Life
Don’t put your work and life in separate compartments. Instead, integrate them. This is a better approach for “work-life balance” in the world we live in now. Take time for yourself during workday. On the other hand, you could handle some small tasks during the weekend.
14. Dealing with the Unexpected
Unexpected things happen, so you need to prepare for them. And have some friends to help you because in hard times it might be difficult for you to think clearly.
15. Putting It All Together
Apply the organization principles to the challenges you face. For example, if you are looking for a job then you can use the principles to organize information that’s relevant for your job search.
Getting Organized in the Google Era guides you to the organization principles that are relevant to today’s opportunities and challenges. One of the author (Douglas C. Merrill) has a PhD in cognitive science, so this book has a strong emphasis on organizing yourself in a way that matches the way your brain works. The book itself is organized in a brain-friendly way: it has an Encoding section at the end of each chapter that summarizes the key points of the chapter.
In addition to the tools covered in the three parts of the book, it has an Appendix that introduces you to a lot of online tools for different purposes. I found some tools I’d never heard of here.
There are some parts of the book that I don’t fully agree with though. For instance, I think the advice on creating strong passwords (by combining some clues in your life) is inefficient and difficult to apply, especially if you need a lot of different passwords. It takes too much work both to create and retrieve them. In my opinion, using a password manager application is a much better approach.