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You Are Here: Home - Newsletters - "Get Organized" - Article

     The Helpful Habit

As an information seeker and retriever, I am learning my boundaries to sharing INFORMATION with others. Community and church work, education, and friends with varied interests yield a plethora of opportunities to gather information. However, I have discovered that the collection and dissemination of information to others generally does not contribute positively to one's personal organizing situation. And while the idea of saving and sending articles to others might feel good and helpful at first, the WEIGHT it bears as I actually engage in the act is far from pleasant.

Here is a good example of my temptation to salvage things for OTHER people. I saw an in-house ad at my work for perfectly good, free binders. I thought for 30 seconds about contacting a local private school or community center, asking if they needed binders, offering to "take an order" for the quantity they needed, and delivering the binders. Then I realized that I did not have -- and probably would not make -- the time to deliver them, nor did I have the stamina to do all this. I don't even drive to work. As much as it goes against my grain to allow those binders to end up in the dumpster, it is not my civic RESPONSIBILITY to inform others of every single opportunity I come across, nor to recycle every single item which I am aware might be wasted. If the binders get trashed, so be it.

Local organizations and friends pose a conflict between my DUTY to inform and my rational ABILITY to collect, store, and distribute information. Being on numerous mailing lists for research, educational opportunities, and functions of all kinds makes me a depository for data. It is normal for me to set aside clippings or brochures; to put dates of events (that I would not likely attend) on my calendar; and to send information of all kinds to people I think would use it. But does it really happen? I actually work full-time and must stop myself from cutting out newspaper and magazine articles that I think would interest my friends.

I have reviewed what it takes to be an information machine in this context:
  • select the appropriate STORAGE material (folders, etc.)

  • find a PLACE to store material at home, at work, or on the way

  • collect envelopes, stamps, stationery and other mailing SUPPLIES

  • locate the ADDRESSES of persons to which I want to send information

  • schedule time (or worse, divert time) to PREPARE materials for mailing

  • ASSEMBLE the selected items, stuff an envelope, write a note

  • record to whom I sent what and keep a COPY for myself

  • TAKE the mailings to the post office.

  • return all of my materials to what is probably an undesignated place in my house
It really is too much!

The realization is that until someone RECEIVES one of the gems of my knowledge, they have no IDEA that I was even thinking about them! They certainly can't feel disappointed that I didn't save that article for them if they didn't even know I had it in the first place. Therefore, the new rules for sharing information are:
  • continue to scan for relevant and usable information for myself and for others

  • THINK carefully about the steps above for disseminating the information

  • decide if I will actually FOLLOW them

  • allow ONE WEEK to deliver the information -- by mail, person-to-person, etc.

  • DISCARD it if the item is still in my possession after that week ends

One method I have found for efficiently disseminating information is to use the tools of the INTERNET. Many of the people to whom I would send information are in my address book and welcome a linked page. Whether it is an idea for home, avocation or community, a fresh inside that comes with my name clearly in the subject lets the recipient know that I was thinking of them.

Being an information hound is a benefit to oneself and to others. Locating items of interest, whether in paper, material or in digital form may help to keep in touch in with friends or to help in the community. Using the skill, however, should be TEMPERED by one's own need to stay organized!


Maxine Harmon has an M.S. in Information Science from Drexel University you may contact her at .

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