A recent article by KM guru Tom Davenport focuses on the importance of personal productivity, a theme I’ve recently started to develop in this blog. There have also been a lot of reviews of a product called X1 for personal full-text searching – an example of a personal time saver.  

In Decoding Information-Worker Productivity (Optimize Magazine, April 2004), Davenport writes that

“Management of personal information and knowledge at work is at the core of personal productivity, but has only recently become the focus of many businesses. Our hypothesis is that companies—and CIOs in particular—will increasingly have to address how employees manage their personal information at work. When they do, we expect that they’ll achieve substantial benefits in productivity and effectiveness.”

I agree and that is the conclusion I reached in adding a Personal Productivity category to my blog recently. One of my favorite personal productivity tools is a search engine called 80-20 Retriever. It indexes Outlook and whatever directories on my hard drive that I select. While this product appears not be available for individuals any longer, a personal full-text search product called X1 has recently received quite a bit of good press (see, for example, Business Week, April 26th, “Search-Boosters for Your PC,” by Stephen Wildstrom). With these and other similar products, you can instantly search your mail and file directories using full-text techniques.

My challenge now is to figure out if I should give up on foldering e-mail messages. I am in the category of users that create extensive and fairly deeply nested folders for both my files on the drive and my e-mail messages in Outlook. Arguably, with 80-20 or its equivalent, I don’t need to spend the time filing messages, I could just rely on full-text searches. I find, however, that I frequently want to review related messages in chronological order and so still find folders valuable. But I have a nagging suspicion that this may just be an addiction and that I could save time by skipping foldering.

On balance, I think I will continue foldering. My experience over the years with work product retrieval, litigation support, and other information management strongly suggests that it’s best to combine full-text with browsing topics (that is folders) and/or links. Bottom line: whether you have the folder discipline or not, full-text search is a real time saver.