Tip for preventing burnout: collect information in big buckets, not tiny cups


Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/04/26/tip-for-preventing-burnout-co.html




Ok, what if the problem isn’t really the size of the buckets, but the collecting of information. Is there a group, like Compulsive Data Collectors Anonymous? Asking for a friend.:lying_face:


My favorite bucket is, in fact, the trash can.


This bears out my conclusions learned from close to a decade of maintaining my largest “database,” my music files (122-odd GB and counting).
The worst offender is genre tags, which depends on the uploader’s subjective taste. I think I ran into the tag “Hardcore Thrash” yesterday while skimming thru my music player. I thought, “I listen to ‘Hardcore Thrash?’” It was a Metallica album. I was like, OK, I guess that’s true, but I’m never going to select that genre. “Rock” is what works.


I have an album from SCOTS that the genre is “psycho billy” according to CDDB. I put it into my Rock folder.


When my coworker retired after 40 years of not throwing anything away, I filed his important papers into ten big blue recycling buckets and a couple of overflowing rolling garbage skips. Then I was able to find the stuff he had accused me of losing,that was hiding under piles of the aforementioned detritus.


I like to suit organizational methods to the material being organized.

For example, I have a /media folder, and inside it are album folders, each one containing album art files and songs with multiple tags (classifying the Japonize Elephants, Sunday Driver or Liz Phair as merely “rock” is criminal).

Throwing all 7000+ songs in a single folder would elide interesting and useful structure.


Actually, the opposite is true. A smaller number of ‘big buckets,’ each containing a large number of files, is quicker to search, easier to maintain, and more convenient to file new items into. That helps you stay ‘in the flow’ and operate at your highest level.

This is garbage advice. Show us the evidence of this, or go back where you came from. I believe that there may be contexts in which this is ok advice, but where is the evidence it is any good? What is even meant by productivity? Ask any parts manufacturer, retail establishment, or quartermaster if this is an effective strategy. “We can get rid of our inventory system, because we can just go search for the right part when we need it, and we’ll save all this time and become more productive. Just dump that delivery in a plie by the loading bay.”

Microsoft and especially google (and apple too) have spent the better part of two decades removing the ability to easily organize files, and instead rely on search. They did this because their tools for organizing files sucked, so they iteratively made them harder to use and placed search at the center if information management. I can’t count the number of times a colleague attempts to find a document and has no clue where it is, goes to search for it, fails, eventually finds it in the downloads folder or something. Now, the advice from productivity gurus is to say ‘actually, hitting yourself on the head with a hammer makes you smarter, and it feels good too.’

And as a college prof, don’t get me started on how millennials don’t think they need to know anything anymore, because they can just search for it. They don’t bother learning it because they can look it up on their phone, as if the thing that they will get hired for is the ability to google something instead of actually creating value and new knowledge.

And get off my lawn while you are at it.


They stole your tip!

Tip for preventing burnout: collect liquor in big buckets, not tiny cups



Having read the first chapter or so of David Allen’s Getting Things Done a couple of times, I thought this was a reference to the idea of “universal capture,” where you have a place (notebook, software, etc.) for dumping of unstructured ideas or whatever that you need to get out of your head and into somewhere safe, to triage later. Only I read more of this article and they never got to the point where you’d actually triage the stuff you’ve dumped.

“Just search for it” only works if you remember to search your big pile for it.


They’ve never owned a consulting business, obviously. I have to carefully categorize all my background data so I can go to a specific folder and pull the set of documents for that particular type of problem. Dumping everything into only a few folders would be a disaster for those projects with tight deadlines where I have to pull information to support my reports.


You read the article and followed at least a couple of the nine links already there, right Bunky?

Now, the advice from productivity gurus is to say ‘actually, hitting yourself on the head with a hammer makes you smarter, and it feels good too.’

As good feeling as hitting other people over the head? amirite?


Agree. This advice only works for organizing email.

For files, my life is vastly improved by organizing my decades and terabytes of data. Especially on a network mapped drive, searching for stuff still sucks in 2018.


I started grad school last year and used Evernote for my note taking and research.

Initially I was super granular, lots of tags and separate notes for everything.

Now I just dump everything into one new note per week (except for readings which all get saved in a giant reading list notebook). I can still search everything, but it’s easier to figure out which note I should be searching in.


What does this have to do with burnout anyway? My experience is that burnout happens more the more productive I am.

Boredom happens when I waste my time on unproductive tasks. So yes I would agree that spending less time categorizing things reduces boredom.


For the buckets advice, there was a BS whitepaper you can’t even read without signing up. For the rest of the advice not about the big-bucket, it is mostly blog posts. This isn’t evidence. There is research out there, but it is dwarfed by unsubstantiated advice like this, and there is no way to discriminate it from columns in GQ or Cosmo.

I can tell you (and I have consulted for businesses on developing science-based ways to measure and improve productivity) that there is no general advice that is relevant for “productivity”. You need to define what you mean by productivity first, meaning what is the behavior, the measure or metric, and the context, etc. If someone refuses to specify what they mean by productivity, it is probably because they don’t want to be pinned down. Will the advice hold? Probably for some people in some contexts according to some measures. But I bet you could find another productivity guru who says the opposite, and then we have to decide who to believe, with no evidence. That is the definition of pseudoscience.

Big-bucket may be fine for some people in some tasks and workflows. A time-consuming organization policy definitely invests less time in the organizing, so if you only measure time spent organizing, it is a win. For things you rarely need to retrieve like email, it might be a win if the search tools and your memory are good enough. But retrieval is often more time-sensitive than organizing, so ten minutes of organizing when you have time can be worth it if you save a minute you are under the gun.


Yes. It’s called the NSA.


Well, I have to admit that as a programmer in my late fifties, I employ this strategy all over the place. I don’t need to know the answer, as long as I know an answer exists. A few seconds Google and I’m done.

Frankly, age does catch up. New languages (which I need to learn every 2-3 years) take way more effort, but I can usually start being useful in a few days because I know a construct exists and I can just Google it. I don’t bother to learn it any more than I memorize today’s news.

A new paradigm? Sigh. That’s where Google won’t help, because you really need to be able to reshape your mind to grok an entirely new way of thinking. And boy, do old minds not warp to new thinking like my university-self could…

Now, I do fully agree that students need to learn their basics fairly thoroughly because analogies of that learning will have to last their entire career. But for us “mature” types, we truly don’t need to spend the effort to learn it. And yes, when those basic paradigms run out of steam, it’s tough. (My father complains about this in his research all the time and I’m beginning to feel it myself.)


I believe the headline is misleading based on the linked article. A search of the article for “burnout” turns up no results. Overload is mentioned a lot though.

FWIW my process when scraping the internet for things I find interesting is to drag everything into a single folder on my desktop. Within the folder I have it set to sort by kind. Then, when I have time on my hands and am in the mood to organize, I go into the folder and start pulling out groups of “kinds” and putting them in a more permanent home on my computer. Usually on Sunday. This saves me from needing to organize in the moment, when my time may be more limited, and allows me to get more things done more quickly.

If I need to find something before doing the sorting, and don’t know the exact name of what I’m looking for, I just scroll to where the “kind” group begins and scan through it. That works 80-90% of the time (I’m guessing) since the folder is usually cleared out each week.

I also tried Evernote for awhile, but I was discovering that most of what I was keeping was ending up in the same notebook anyhow, and I was never going back through it to sort things out. I may return to using it at some point, but for now it’s not working for me.