I’m currently sat writing this on a train, the 18.57 train from Banbury to Manchester Piccadilly. I’m getting off this train at Wolverhampton. I’m making the most of this opportunity (being sat on a train with a laptop and wifi) to do some work. I like working on the train. I find it easier to work on a train than at home (shame I just can’t travel on trains every day I’d be so productive). I ike the noise and commotion that a train provides: the people; the bags; the conversations; the tap, tap, tapping on nearby laptops and the smells of bacon butties and lager.

View from the Train

However, I was just sat here, working away, when something odd about my way of working occurred to me that I normally take for granted. There’s a chap sat next to me also tapping away on his own laptop and I tried to imagine what he would think if he were to glance at my screen. Imagining seeing my screen through another’s eyes gave me that uncanny feeling that things are strange when seen with fresh eyes.

The strange thing I am referring to is the fact that I give my documents, spreadsheets and folders odd names and I think that is normal. However, to the man sat next to me, this is surely not normal. Or, I assume that to be the case. I need to know now whether other people call their folders and documents odd names and organize them as haphazardly as I do. Here is an example of an oddly named spreadsheet.

My timekeeping spreadsheet is called: Copy of Time After Toes July 2017

It’s not called ‘Timesheet’ or even just ‘Time’. That would be sensible. The astute reader of this blog will notice that the word ‘time’ does appear in the name, giving some sense of normality, but the meaning of the rest of the spreadsheet’s name is rather ambiguous. The interested reader may want to know what, or who, is ‘Toes’ and why is it ‘time after Toes’ (what happened before Toes?)? There is a logic to it. After my youngest son was born (who I fondly call Toes) I started a new spreadsheet for my timekeeping for work and called it ‘Time After Toes’ as that is what it recorded: time spent working after the birth of the child called Toes. Subsequently, as I saved more versions of this spreadsheet I started to date them by month, hence the ‘July 2017’ part of the title (although I haven’t been consistent in renaming this every month given that it is now September). ‘Copy of’ I think just appears in the name of a spreadsheet when you save a spreadsheet after it crashes. Incidentally, Toes is now nearly 8 years old.

This is just one example. I could provide more (on request). This naming oddity doesn’t just apply to documents. It also applies to folders.

The folder I currently use for everything I’ve worked on since 2013 is called: VSIs for Edingburgh

That name won’t make much sense without some some context. A few years ago I worked on a project for Oxford University Press which involved creating short abstracts for titles in their Very Short Introduction series which were due to be launched online that same year. I then went to Edinburgh on holiday. I needed a folder for the work for this project while I was away. Hence the name. However, after creating that folder, I carried on using it as a general dumping ground for ALL work I did when away from home (so work not saved on the home server). The occupancy of VSI abstracts in this folder is minor.

A Very Short Introduction

At some point, this folder got a bit messy. So I created a subfolder called: OSO Stuff (OSO being Oxford Scholarship Online, a project I spend most of my time working on).

I then  started using this folder as a dumping ground for all away-from-home work (not just OSO – anything and including VSIs). This folder also gradually outgrew its usefulness.

So I subsequently created another subfolder to put new work in with a new name: General OSO

I then went on holiday to Wales.

The next folder within this folder was logically named: Wales October 2015

The same happened again, ‘Wales October 2015’ became my dumping ground. Everything was saved in here.

Wales where I did some work in October 2015 – when I had wifi

A year later I went to Wale again and so along came a fresh, new subfolder: Wales Oct 2016

I am currently still dumping into this folder but I am now already finding this folder really messy, following in the footsteps of its predecessors. I think I need a new folder (perhaps ‘Haddenham September 2017’ might be a good name as that is where I have been today?).

This is file path of all my away-from-home work at the moment:

C:\_Moved\Desktop\VSIs for Edinburgh\OSO Stuff\General OSO\Wales October 2015\Wales Oct 2016

That’s not great, is it? Anyone who is quite tidy will be quaking right now. It is messy, it is disorganzied, but I know where everything is. It works for me.

Organized chaos is a real thing. Long life folders and spreadsheets with weird names. I think life would be boring if things were named to describe exactly what they are.