Thursday, November 04, 2010

Creative Organisation

“It is impossible to be creative without good organisation.”
Ferran Adria, head chef, el Bulli

“… creative notebooks are filled with ideas, concepts, photographs and sketches for new dishes … Each day Ferran will take an idea from the notebook as the starting point for that day’s session … the chefs can easily refer to the hundreds of notebooks that have been filed away over the years to look for new ideas or to compare results”
A Day at elBulli: An Insight into the Ideas, Methods and Creativity of Ferran Adria"

As I posted before, I’ve struggled with keeping track of all the bits and pieces I pick up along the way.

Every day I collect things that attract my attention. I take photos that I upload into Google and print; I make sketches and drawings that I scan; I cut out pictures from magazines; I photocopy articles; I write down quotes, phrases and extracts; I pick up leaflets, brochures, flyers and anything that’s free. All these things seem to be random – the unifying factor is that they register something somewhere within my creative imagination.

For a long time all this ‘stuff’ was scattered on the floor, piled up on windowsills, stuffed into carrier bags, thrown in the boot of my car. Or mysteriously lost.

But not any more.

Oh yeah, baby.

I’m getting organised.

Inspired by the book about elBulli I read recently, and particularly by the quotes above, I’ve changed the way I do things do things so that I can access all the information and ideas I collect.

Now, please bear in mind that for many years I was a Project Manager in a large financial institution, managing the development and implementation of computer projects and marketing strategies.

I also taught Time Management principles and practices.

I love Filofax and similar personal management systems (I still do).

So you’d think I’d come up with something pretty damn sophisticated.


I went to Staples and bought a pack of 50 dull-coloured wallets.

Each week, I gather together everything I’ve collected and shove it into one of these folders. Then I write a list on the front of what’s in there. The following week I start again. No continuity; no cross-referencing.

That’s it.

And it’s working. Hell, I could find these elBulli quotes from months back, couldn’t I? And a list of books about the Renaissance that I’d written on a scrap of paper? Found that too.

I’m going to call it a “Filing System”. Good, eh? (Granted, the word “system” might be stretching it a bit.)

Why is this working (so far) when previous attempts have failed? I think it’s because it’s low-tech and low-maintenance. It’s easy but it works. Also, it’s physical … I can see and handle the folders (unlike a digital approach). And I get to write lists on the front of each wallet in coloured felt-tip pens! (Some of you will get how much fun that is … and how satisfying.)

One thing I’ve noticed though, is that I don’t date things – mainly because I don’t care much about when I picked up the idea – only that I did.

But I think I might invent a device for simply dating each piece of paper. I’ll call it a “Date Stamp”.

So tell me … what works for you?

I'll tell you when I find out :D

Actually shelves works for me, if I can see it or at least get to it, then I can utilise it. If it is stuffed in boxes where I can't see it, forget it. Then again I probably don't need to accumulate quite so much as you, since I have other projects to do and they need to find a system of being filed on my computer.
you could get one of those actual date stamps - they're so cool!
and for me, to-do lists. I don't really even need to do everything that's on them and I probably spend more time on the list than on actually doing any of it (can totally relate to the felt tip thing) but just doing it makes me feel like "ah, I now have some kind of order in my life and can get on with things".
I still try to keep it all in my head but low tech would be a real step foward!
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