this week in Sunday Life I trust my search function

“It’s like we’re programmed to make life hard for ourselves.” The woman in front at the supermarket on Tuesday was apologizing for the complex plans she’d just made with her three boys to call when they got to the skate shop or text if they needed more time, but not at 4.45 when she was expecting a conference call, and not on her Blackberry number because it was flat. I was privy to the lot.

photo via lucky mag

“Whatever happened to ‘meet me outside the Post Office at five or I’m going without you’,” she said offloading her diet frozen meals and family-size bottles of multi-vitamins (no judgment!).

“I know,” I laughed. “I know.”

Overcomplicating life is what we do. And brilliantly so. Look what we’ve done to the simple act of eating – we follow more rules than ever. And yet we’re only getting pudgier. Me, I overcomplicate my weekends, my hand washing, my afternoon cup of tea. I’ll swirl a simple plan to meet a friend for a walk into a maelstrom of extra considerations and tasks.

I was chatting about this recently with a journalist. She pointed to our chaotic way of life and asked for my antidote. I was blunt. “Back the f*ck off,” I told her. Which was not a threat, but my uncomplicated answer. (Prefer a more palatable version? Do less. Get your grubby hands off it. Step back…)

This week I applied my BTFO thinking to an issue I reckon causes an overcomplicated amount of angst among us all: inbox organising. There’s only one thing more stressful than being bludgeoned with emails and that’s not having a system for filing and saving said emails. The fear we’ll need a record of a correspondence in the future sees our inboxes bulge and our heart rates rise.

Which is a fair fear. We are in fact expected to retrieve the commission rate agreed to in June 2009 and our Foxtel installation code from two apartments ago – and preferably in 30 seconds or less. Was it always like this? Can anyone remember how we disputed the price increase on the carpet cleaner’s invoice before the internet? Did it take weeks? Did we have immaculate filing? Did this kind of data retrieval fill us with dread?

I think it did. Which is why we’re now so paranoid about inbox organizing now. Folders is where the angst bottlenecks. David Allen has become one of the world’s best known productivity gurus off the back of his site Getting Things Done and his New York Times bestseller of the same name, both premised on attending to our fear of folder chaos. Ditto, the very popular business blog 43 Folders.

But working to my BTFO mantra, I’m here to proffer an easier way: don’t file, don’t save. Because technology is here to (finally) save us.

Yep, after years of adding rocket fuel to our overcomplicating tendencies, the web has evolved to back us. Literally. Windows 7 and Mac’s Spotlight now have such sophisticated search functions we can find anything that was ever typed on our computer without pain. Or folders.

Same with the internet. Have you noticed how Google can now guess what you’re looking for from just one or two key words? Or will find anything you’ve ever mentioned on Facebook or Twitter? No need to document who you dined with in August last financial year – it’s out there somewhere.

The upshot? You can – yes, deep breath – BTFO. Keep a bulging inbox. Or delete the lot. Be messy and disorganised. It’ll be OK.

Forget updating your address book, too. Instead, embrace the chaos of an unfoldered inbox as a searchable database. The bonus being you’ll always be digging up the most up-to-date details. Try it. I did this week and I felt an instant expansiveness.

You know, my favourite life-bettering theme is this idea of embracing chaos. Our efforts to order it fair, and exhaust us; far better to step into it and flow in the same direction. Also, technology is evolving to our chaos. It’s simply up to us, then, to let it back us more. Everything is already there, somewhere.

Which is a lot like life, really. And a lot like something a Zen philosopher would say. Do less. Get your grubby hands off it. Step back. (So long as you don’t forget to back up.)

You agree…we just need to BTFO?

Have your say, leave a comment.