â€œTodayâ€™s solutions become tomorrowâ€™s problemsâ€ said Sam Greengard last week at the American Society of Journalists and Authors conference. He was talking about how cool technological gadgets and â€˜appsâ€™ have left us drowning in gigabytes of data. Tagging is one of todayâ€™s solutions and applying tags to email messages and files not only allows you to categorize them without having to move them into various folders, but it also allows you to assign more than one tag to each item. Wondering if I really have time to re-read and tag tens of thousands of emails and files led me to more basic questions: Do I need to do it? What do I have to gain? Trying to harness, arrange and tame our data troves seems an illusive goal and takes way too much effort. And that, in turn, led me to an even more interesting consideration: What might I lose by doing it, besides the most obvious time suck?
Coincidentally, while thinking about this I was embroiled in the parallel endeavor of straightening up an office, arranging and taming the piles of envelopes, papers, bills, receipts, cards and letters, articles, books, stick-it notes, photos….
Whether the labeling and filing is physical or electronic, once done one can quickly and efficiently find what one is looking for and that is the ultimate pay-off, right? Time is money; waste not, want not. Hmmmm…..maybe not. By arriving so immediately at the destination, what is lost is the journey itself. It may take longer, possibly even create a detour, but if one has to sift through piles, or open multiple electronic documents to see what is inside, serendipity might strike, yielding an answer or solution not previously considered, or uncovering something about which you had forgotten. Even if what you find is not relevant to the impetus of the search, accidental rediscoveries might open up a whole new avenue of thought…or just make you smile.