Anne Zelenka asks: are you a filer or a piler?

As I’ve gotten better at using search and as search has itself gotten better, I find myself relying less and less on folders or on Gmail’s labels. Filing just takes too much thought and work without a payoff later for me. Besides, it seems a holdover from our physical desktops.

My desktop is feeling Gmail’s impact. After almost three years of dumping email into an heaped archive, knowing that I’ll find it later, I’ve noticed that I’ve taken the same approach to my physical filing system. At least at work, I no longer obsess over carefully putting project documents into the correct folder. Nope. Everything just gets added to a pile on my desk. Granted, the pile is separated into several stacks, but there’s no organization to them. Some things still get sorted. Documents relevant to annual performance reviews. At home, I still have special folders for taxes and such. But they don’t touch my daily life.

It works. I can find what I need quickly enough, and I feel better not spending time in needless sorting. I’ve spent a lot of my life engaged in devising careful taxonomies that I end up never using. This carried more stress than I cared to admit.

So what do I think about the new Google Docs interface? I don’t mind the folders, but I won’t use them. I preferred labels, even though I don’t use them either.

I do miss the less-used documents being hidden when I first log in. Now I see docs that I’d rather not be reminded of every day. Chapters of an abandoned book. Proposals for projects that went nowhere. I want to be able to get those when I need them, but I prefer that they be hidden otherwise.