Every 6 months or so I tend to throw out whatever “systems” I’m using and start fresh. It happened again this past weekend after I stood behind someone and watched him open up TextEdit and make a note in it. TextEdit! Can you believe it? What year is this? I kept watching and he just wrote what he needed to write and saved the file to a folder on his drive with an easy-to-remember name. Done.

I went about my day muttering things like “…but DEVONthink this,” and “…Yojimbo that,” and “…EverNote that other thing.” Then 4 things happened.

The first was that DEVONthink kept crashing while I was launching it. The bit of information I needed was in DEVONthink and I couldn’t get to it. Yes, the files are all somewhere on the filesystem, but that’s not how I find things.

The second event was this post by Douglass Barone which reminded me how cool Notational Velocity is and that it can now save its notes as, you guessed it, plain text files.

Third, I realized that I’d been writing tons of stuff in WriteRoom or the nifty OmmWriter, both of which are nice and simple text editors. Text only editors.

And finally, I (almost accidentally) used Spotlight to find something, and it was fast, easy, and accurate. I’d bailed on Spotlight years ago, disabled the keyboard shortcuts and moved on. I should’ve been paying attention. It actually works.

So these things started to add up. What if I kept everything in plain old text files? Oh what the hell, I spent most of the day exporting everything from DEVONthink and Yojimbo into text files. Then, using A Better Finder Rename (which is awesome), I named everything using a simple format: “YYMMDD-CODE My New Text File.txt” CODE can be a project name or shorthand for whatever I want. Doesn’t matter.

I then took everything and dropped it into an appropriately named “~Everything” folder in my DropBox folder. The ~Everything folder looks like this:

~Everything/

–Notes/

–Projects/

–Reference/

That’s now where nearly everything goes. In Projects I have sub-folders for each client or project, and within each of them is a folder called “Files and Assets” for things that aren’t just text files. Each day (or week or whatever) I’ll look through the notes in Notes and move things into either a project or reference folder. Everything is synched by Dropbox and the text files in Notes are also synched with Simpletext.ws so I can edit them with WriteRoom on the iPhone.

Not bad, and the coolest part is that I can use Notational Velocity as a sort of front end to all the files in the Notes folder. But I don’t have to. It’s just text. So that’s it, my entire system is now not much more than some folders with text files in them. They’ll always be there, readable, portable, and simple.

Update: Looks like [I’m not the only one]http://web.archive.org/web/20110907081855/http://www.cs.umd.edu:80/~bederson/user-advocate/2010/01/my-personal-information-management.html)