On Information Hygiene

As a developers-in-training at Launch Academy, we’re constantly behind. Our inboxes are bursting with documentation, blog posts, and guides that need to be reviewed. We’re required to split our time between coursework, our “breakable toy” main projects, and numerous side projects. Simultaneously, we’re urged to engage with the wider community through social media and at meetups. This is why I’ve found it immensely useful to have solid support systems in place – what I call good information hygiene.

hands by theseanster93, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  theseanster93 

Good information hygiene starts with a platform like Evernote, nvALT, or Wunderlist. The actual platform isn’t terribly important. Habitually entering significant information into the platform, however, is critical. Forming this habit is the foundation upon which most subsequent info hygiene will be built.

For processing all this stuff, I use a blend of straight “Getting Things Done” and “The Secret Weapon”. Again, the system isn’t nearly as important as the habit of regularly processing all gathered information into actionable items, archivable items, and stuff to delegate.

Once this core of information hygiene is in place, we can use it to guide our priorities. Critical tasks tend to bubble to the top. But, there are always more important things to do then there are hours in the day. Part of good information hygiene is having a time management system to prioritize and track how time is spent.

My time management is split between three systems: Beeminder, Google Calendar, and an application I’m developing called TimeVault. I use TimeVault for raw data entry. Google Calendar handles scheduling. Beeminder is the enforcement arm, making sure that I’m meeting my goals.

There are other, smaller components to information hygiene. Password managers like 1Password are massively under-used. If you’re not using a password manager, get one right now. Caching services like Pocket can help mitigate information overload, though I find they often become a dumping ground for stuff I’ll never read. Use with caution.

I’ve mentioned a lot of tools here, but information hygiene is really about habits. Some habits will come with time, and for everything else, well, there’s Beeminder.

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