The 501 Method

I'm not an organized person by nature. I have a terrible memory.

(really, I'm not kidding. My memory (or rather, the gaping hole in my brain where other people have a memory) is legendary. I've forgotten things you people wouldn't believe. I forgot that I'd planned a department-wide trip to a local gallery. I forgot my family's vacation to Hawaii -- it was only when my Mom came in to find out why I wasn't packing that anybody realised I didn't even know we were going on holiday. That day. As in, the rest of the family was IN THE CAR, waiting for me.)

So in order to make it through an ordinary work day, I have to take some extraordinary measures, otherwise everything I'm supposed to get done falls apart. For example, I have to write EVERYTHING down. Anything that Corey doesn't write down doesn't get stored. As those who know me say, "Corey doesn't use his brain for storing things. Besides dinosaurs."

It's true. My brain does feature a remarkable collection of dinosaur-related data. But career opportunities in the dinosaur field are few and far between. And pay like crap.

So anyway, this morning I was in Le Gourmand, picking up my sandwich, when it occurred to me that one of my principal organizing systems was a little idiosyncratic, and might, at least, provide some light entertainment for my three readers (hi JAmes).

And maybe even be useful, if (like me) you occasionally suffer from memory lapses, and (like me) don't find new toys particularly helpful.

My organization system doesn't require web applications, moleskin notebooks, iPhones or even sticky notes.

I call it The 501 Method. Well, that's a lie. I don't call it anything. But the primary tool required IS a pair of Levi 501 jeans, and The 501 Method sounds kind of catchy.

Actually, any article of clothing with a pocket will do -- though it's best if it's an article you wash regularly. The key here is inconveniencing yourself a little bit. Not too much, but a little bit. A little inconvenience is how I keep myself organized.

Basically, I put stuff in my pockets.

I know that doesn't sound too remarkable, and perhaps it isn't, but bear with me.

See, I HATE having my pockets all full of stuff. And key to this whole process is doing things I hate. So I don't organize this stuff. I don't put it in a neat little wallet or something so it won't get munched up. That would reduce the inconvenience, which is counter-productive for The 501 Method.

The stuff, in particular, is pieces of paper. Receipts, or to-do items, or whatever I need to track. Mostly receipts. Whenever I buy something, I ask for the receipt, and I put it in my pocket.

"Okay," I can hear you saying, "You put receipts in your pockets. Fantastic. Great. Earth-shattering."

But see, the receipts in the pocket isn't the clever bit. The CLEVER bit is that when I get home, I take everything in my pockets out of my pockets, and pile it up in front of my iMac.

The iMac isn't really critical to The 501 Method. I know, neither are the 501s, but I have to draw the line somewhere.

So far, the critical bits are:

1. Pocket (for putting things in)
2. Things (for putting in and taking out of pockets)

So you don't really need the iMac so much just yet. What you do need is a place where the receipts will get in the way. Where you can't just keep piling them up day after day.

Remember, inconvenience is what this The 501 Method all about.

So we've gone from stuffing things in our pockets to piling things up in front of an iMac. Onwards.

What happens now is that eventually I get so frustrated with the pile of receipts in front of my iMac that I take action. For myself, I record expenses in a spreadsheet, but the spreadsheet is kind of like the iMac -- interesting, perhaps as a personal detail (hey, Corey knows what a spreadsheet is), but not a key part of the process.

No, our critical bits list for The 501 Method has increased by one:

1. Pocket (for putting things in)
2. Things (for putting in and taking out of pockets)
3. Place (for putting things)

You'll note that the pocket and the place are similar. In fact, we've already wrapped this process and are back at the beginning, so really, the whole process only involves steps 1 and 2.

1. Have a pocket
2. Put things in it.

It's all about inconveniencing yourself so that you end up having to deal with things. Really, I've just inculcated in myself a certain tolerance towards inconvenience, and a caution whenever I find myself doing something that makes things more convenient for myself. Because typically convenience ends up not so convenient. The 501 Method is about embracing inconvenience.

So I'm skeptical of anyone who tries to convince me that a new tool or a new process will make things more convenient for me. The capacity to get things done doesn't necessarily involve things being convenient.

I know The 501 Method is never going to catch on. It's not complicated enough. It doesn't have enough steps. It would be hard to write a book, launch a lecture series or even a PowerPoint presentation about it. Heck, I can't even turn it into a line of clothing without getting sued by venerable Levi Strauss' great-grand-nephews.

Which would be profoundly inconvenient.