What I Do: Keep it Simple

Get Organized (2013).
My friend let out a deep sigh and looked at me with a pained face.

"My computer is so old, and I need a new one, but I first have to clean up all my old files and put them on a hard drive, which means I have to buy a hard drive. It's going to take forever." She looked down. "And, I mean, I have your book and I know it's going to tell me what to do, but I also know it's going to take so much time to do it right."

"No!" I said. "No no no. It's not hard, and it's not going to take a lot of time! What you have to do is really simple," I said. "And, the way I would recommend doing it is actually free. You don't have to buy a hard drive!"

I told her more or less everything that's in Chapter 1 of Get Organized: How to Clean Up Your Messy Life in a few sentences. Create some folders. Name them by year. Sort your files, and put them into the year folders based on their latest date. That's it. Done.

As for backing up, I said, "Why not just keep your old computer in a closet or something, and use it as the backup? When you get a new computer, you can migrate the important or recent stuff, like maybe the folders for 2013 and 2014, and just leave everything else on the old computer as if it were a hard drive. If your stuff is backed up to Dropbox already [she told me earlier that it was], then that's all you need to do."

I hate that people often assume the advice I have will be deeply technical and difficult to understand or carry out. The whole point of my column and how I write is to be the opposite of that. I take complicated stuff and say, "Don't listen to all those people telling you it's complicated. You don't need to understand every detail. You only need these basics, and I'm going to tell them to you in plain language."

That's what I do.

It all comes down to KISS principle: keep it simple, stupid.

Sometimes, when people hear how simple some of my solutions are, and how they are grounded in common sense rather than code or innovative apps and software to buy, I think they're almost disappointed. They thought there was a magic answer. There isn't. It's really just simple stuff.

But sometimes the simple stuff is hard to do. Anything that requires diligence and follow-through is hard, even when it's dead simple. Eat less (yeah, right). File your tax write-off receipts as they accumulate, rather than at the end of the quarter or year (fat chance). Close your email program when you're trying to get work done. Delete emails that you don't need.

Do you know how many people tell me, "I can't delete emails that I don't need. What if I need them?"

Solutions to technological problems are often very simple and free to implement. Don't make it harder on yourself for no reason by anticipating a hassle. Keep it simple, stupid.