Keeping track of stuff
In the aftermath of the elections, it doesn’t look as if anyone in government will be calling on me for frank and fearless advice any time soon. So this seems like a good time to get my records in order. My piece on time management elicited some follow-up discussion along these lines, notably here, with followup here . For those who are looking for moderately constructive routine activities in the wake of recent catastrophes, here are some (not very organised) thoughts.
I’ve never found a satisfactory “one size fits all” solution, though I’ve acquired lots of experience in the associated search. For my main bibliographic file, I’m using a Mac-only product called Bookends, the product of a one-man show called Sonny Software. I tend to go for obscure products like this. The industry standard at the moment is Endnote, but I had some problems with this (can’t remember exactly what) and decided not to adopt it when I shifted from Procite a couple of years ago. When I get time, I plan to work out how to use BiBTeX – Bookends produces output in this format. The physical copies of papers I’ve accumulated are stored in filing cabinets, and marked in Bookends. I’m also trying to keep my PDF files in a similar fashion, but I’m well behind on that.
Email is another gigantic database in itself. I’ve been using Eudora, which has pretty good filtering and search capabilities, but I’m now dipping my toe into Google’s Gmail – I’m just a bit worried about Google having access to all my mail, black and otherwise.
Then I’ve got a bunch of Filemaker databases. As well as the usual contact lists and so on, I’ve got a system of two linked databases which is supposed to keep track of my articles, where they have been submitted and rejected, and so on. As I’m both quite active and somewhat out of the mainstream in economics (both geographically and ideologically), I tend to get a lot of rejections, and I live in fear that I’ll resubmit a paper to a journal where it’s already been rejected. The system also lets me know how long things have been in process, so I can send polite reminder notes in cases of extreme slowness (I normally wait a year, but unlike some authors I’ve heard of, I don’t mark the event with a birthday card).
If I can summarise my views on this kind of organisational stuff, they are
* Something is better than nothing
* The best is the enemy of the good
* Filing is good if it provides a constructive activity during dry spells, downtime and so on, bad if it becomes a displacement activity. If you’re involved in any way with blogs you already have more than enough avenues for displacement activity.
Anyway, back to my new working paper database, which is going to make all my stuff available on RePEc
fn1. They’ll get it anyway, of course, but only in my spare time, and only through channels like blogs and opinion columns
fn2. I also like Nisus Writer as an alternative to Word.