What do you do when a carefully organized system falls apart? Do you roll up your sleeves and redo everything, or do you throw up your hands and let the metaphorical jungle vines take over the metaphorical house of order?
Recently I plugged a thumb drive that had all my tediously organized photos on it into my computer. When I imported them on to my MacBook, the photos came across not in their painstakingly created folders but by date. No matter what I tried, I could not make my folder organization, stay in place. The photos on my computer are now a tangled mess, one of the many reasons I strongly dislike iPhotos.
I had to decide if I would repeat the agonizing task of organizing 9,000 digital photos or just forget the whole thing and hope that I could find a photo if I needed by remembering the approximate date it was taken. I decided not to redo the organization. I just couldn’t justify the hours it was going to take to organize the photos, the majority of which I will likely never look at again anyway.
When things fall apart in organizing, it’s usually in the arena of tech or paper. Tech changes so quickly—duh. Every time there’s a software update or you change the type of device you use (apple to android phone for example), there’s a chance you will have to redo some organizing or relearn something, like the awful latest version of the iPhone calendar. Spending a huge amount of time in organizing digital stuff is probably not a great investment.
I just read an article about Warren Buffet, the iconic billionaire who has lived in the same home for the last 60 years in Nebraska and famously does not participate in any of the usual constant meetings, constant spending and constant busy work of typical billionaires. He’s not going to space, for one thing.
Buffet does not have a computer at his office. He does not own a smart phone. He has never spent time learning new technologies because he recognized early on that things like software programs would change on a regular basis, requiring a hamster wheel of learning and relearning, which he believes is a huge waste of time. He invests instead in reading and thinking about larger issues in more depth, knowledge that will last him a lifetime. It was such an “a ha!” moment to read this, but of course investing time in something that will become obsolete doesn’t make a lot of sense.
I would love to be as clear and focused on priorities and values as Warren Buffet but alas! I have wasted countless hours on trivial pursuits such as making super specific e-mail file folders that I had to redo when I switched from a PC to a Mac. I’ve sat on planes organizing and reorganizing the notes on my smart phone into categories when I could have been reading War and Peace.
And then there’s music. How much time did I spend alphabetizing CDs into binders? And later, how much time did I spend uploading all my CDs onto one of the very early iPods before it died? That debacle was especially disheartening. I began disconnecting from my CD collection that day as if it had cheated on me or had a contagious terminal illness.
When cars stopped being equipped with CD players, I gave up my CDs completely. I quit Apple music and have resigned myself to Spotify and podcasts for driving entertainment. I have some resentment against Apple and it’s shifty, serpent-y ways, always changing up the technology on me. Like Eve in paradise, I’ve got a love/hate thing going on with Apple. Still, I’m not such a Luddite that I’m going to give up my iPhone.
The moral of the story is not to get too attached to your digital organization. Keep it as loose as you can because technology is guaranteed to change and our organizing doesn’t always survive the transition. It’s true that adaptability helps our brains remain youthful, but it’s not a bad idea to keep some candy and petty cash close by to bribe some youngster to help you. Or keep in mind someone old, like Warren Buffet, who doesn’t bother with it at all.