Thoughts on ways to improve the management of professional services firms

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Overcoming chaos in the home office

For much of the last few years, I have largely worked from a home office. Then I moved to on-site work.

My home office was always a bit chaotic. Things deteriorated rapidly after I moved to on-site work, not helped by the habit of my family of dumping things in my space for me to get rid of!

For reasons I won't bore you with, the need to find past papers has suddenly made tidying up a matter of urgency. So I have been going through the piles. In doing so, I suddenly realised that my presence in the on-line world has actually changed the way I work. More precisely, the way I should work.

I have my computer with its electronic files. Then there are my various blogs, web sites and social networking sites.

I tend to keep paper records because they are easier to read, while I have also been worried by things such as computer collapses as well as software changes. The quantity of electronic material that I can no longer access is quite astonishing! So paper records have been of great value.

No more. There are still some things that need to be kept in paper form, but now I have a wide range of storage options, as well as a content creation and modification process. Let me illustrate what I mean.

In my personal as opposed to professional space, I am an historian and economist. I write a fair bit of historical stuff that I would like other people to read. However, I struggle to find the time to write proper journal articles.

I know from experience just how ephemeral records can be. There is no certain way of ensuring that material is preserved. However, with an effective content creation process, you can improve both access (this is important in a professional sense) and the chances of your writing surviving.

The starting point is my blogs. I use these to explore and record ideas. In survival terms, I am dependent here on Google. If Google were to go down, this material would be lost. But in the meantime, blogging is a good way to develop ideas for later access and re-use.

Some of this material I transfer to my existing web sites. Here I can make longer material available in differing forms. As part of this, I have access to a password protected intranet that I can access from anywhere in the world. So I can post work in progress in various forms for later use.

This the most vulnerable point in the whole process in that survival depends upon the survival of the site provider on one side, my ability to keep payments up on the other.

To overcome this, I have begun to use Wikipedia to put up historical material, thus ensuring broader access. I have also just started to turn some of my material into forms suitable for book publication.

Linking all this back to my home office point. I simply don't need to keep a lot of the stuff I used too because my whole process has changed.

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