Getting Organized in the Google Era – or how to ski to Thailand

My last post described 4 main takeaways from Douglas Merrill’s ‘Organizing in the Age of Google’.  Here are four more, specifically related to his top tip –> Search.

If you only keep in your head what you truly need then what do you do with the rest? “Don’t file information search for it,” are perhaps the wisest words in the book.  “Search sets us free from the clutter of our imperfect minds.” Amen and high five to that!

And just how do you search for stuff?  Follow the tips below.

Search tip #1: keep as much in the cloud as possible

  • When things are in the cloud (e.g. stored over the internet) they’re automatically searchable
  • Douglas uses Google docs (which, if you’re not familiar with it, allows you to store information online and give access to whomever you choose) to take notes at meetings.  He will even use a screen during the meeting that shows what he’s writing so people can see.
  • I use Google docs all the time, for example, to explain ongoing tasks to my VA (Virtual Assistant).  I also back up all my data to the cloud using  Easy peasy.  Plus searchable and retrievable, in case my plane goes down in the Hudson with my computer like what actually happened to a Mozy user.

Search tip #2: email …. yourself

  • Douglas regularly emails himself to keep things searchable (he calls email just a to-do list traveling incognito)
  • By including key words in the email, it becomes imminently findable
  • Examples he includes are the location of his will (no he doesn’t share the contents), a scanned copy of his will etc.  If he can’t remember where his will is, he simply pops a few key words into his email search and voila up it pops.  Magic (and better yet, easy on the brain)!


Search tip #3: scratch powder puffs and get power pdf’s

  • Douglas isn’t a fan of everything electronic.  Paper definitely has it’s place and a section in his book is devoted to how to choose between keeping information in electronic format or paper format
  • The main benefit of electronic is that it becomes searchable and it’s the same with pdf’s.
  • If you have key paper documents Douglas recommends scanning them into pdf’s which (are you getting the rhythm yet?) are then searchable.
  • I have a file of notes from conferences and workshops I’ve taken that I call my “Learning Well” file.  It’s now on the list to be scanned.

Search tip #4: Things

  • Since the long ago days of the Apple Newton (an early PDA) I’ve yearned for a simple yet robust to-do list application and (can you hear the angels singing) Douglas delivers.
  • Enter the Things desktop program (which I’ve yet to try as it’s a bit pricey) and the app (which I have tried and I’m in love with).
  • Whether you use Things or not, find something that works for you to make lists, is searchable and gets stuff out of your head so you can make room for the juicy, creative stuff.

There you have it, a 4X4 tip list.  A delightful read, I highly recommend Douglas Merrill’s of Getting Organized in the Google Era.  He ends the book with a story of learning how to ski and being at the top of an intimidating steep run.  A friend skis buy and says, “Turn off your brain and ski.” Instead of trying to calculate every turn down he did just that and had one of the best runs of his life.

His story reminded me of visiting Thailand and getting into a bright red rental Jeep for the first time.  Traveling overseas is the only time I drive a standard and yet again, the gears were staring at me rather menacingly and this time I was with my young family.  I was stressed, until I decided to turn off my brain, rely on muscle memory and just drive.  And that’s just what I did, through Thai New Year’s crowds no less.

And that my friend, is what I wish for you.  Get organized using Douglas’ tips and you’ll not only be able to have room in your brain (and body) to ski but even ski on over to Thailand.

To read the rest of the tips & the specific search tips – download the article here.


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