Rules are meant to be broken and, where it makes sense to do so, go ahead and break them. I won't judge you.

Storing things with dates in them

An example from my life: I send weekly timesheets to the company I work for. 14.11 Timesheets & expenses is where I keep those things.

I thought about creating a new number for each week's timesheets, but soon ended up with a system like this.

14.11 Timesheets for 1601
14.12 Timesheets for 1602
...
14.19 Timesheets for 1619
(I use ‘year-week’ as my date format here, so 1601 is the 1st week of 2016. Use whatever works for you.)

That doesn't seem to make sense. I end up creating a new number each week, which needs to be tracked. That's an overhead I don't need—the system is meant to make my life easier. More importantly, 1619 is a better way to represent ‘the 19th week of 2016’ than 14.19 is. In this case, my numbers are getting in the way.

If you find yourself working against the system, change the system.

Folders inside Johnny.Decimal folders!

I explicitly told you not to do this. I am not to be trusted.

Here's how my timesheets folder looks:

WINDOWS EXPLORER

WINDOWS EXPLORER

MICROSOFT OUTLOOK

MICROSOFT OUTLOOK

It should be obvious that I did this because it makes more sense this way.

All of my timesheets are still in one place: I haven't broken the Johnny.Decimal system because everything is still very organised.

(Note: I'm writing this page in the 21st week of 2016. The previous weeks have been moved to the 2016 folder to save me scrolling down through 21 folders to find the latest one.)

Breaking more rules, solving more problems

When I email my weekly timesheets to my boss and my accountant, I use the following subject line in my email:

Subject: Timesheets and expenses [14.11.1621]

I'm extending the ‘use Johnny.Decimal numbers in your email subject’ idea by putting the full file path, including the yyww bit, in the subject. It appears that our number has grown, but that's okay because it's still very structured.

This allows me—or my boss—to find any timesheet instantly. Search in Outlook for [14.11.1621] and the only thing that appears is my timesheet for this specific week. This is incredibly useful when I have to remind him to approve it so that I can get paid. (He gets far too much email and, unfortunately, I'm the only one that sends it to him already categorised.)

Archiving files

I find myself needing to keep old copies of files. Say it's a spreadsheet that I'm updating, but I want to keep the previous version in case I mess it up.

This is also an exception to the ‘you can't create a folder inside a Johnny.Decimal folder’ rule. In this case, feel free to create a folder called archive and move things in to it.

What we’re trying to avoid

The exceptions above make sense, which is why they're allowed. To contrast, here is an example of what not to do under any circumstances. I mean it. Don't do this. I'll find you and hurt you and I'll take your dog because you don't deserve her.

32.08 My Special Project
  Audio files
  Financial information
  Graphics files
  ...
  PDFs
  
32.09 The Next Project
  Ideas from a napkin
  My financial plan
  ...
  Proofs of concept

Here, we're creating folders inside Johnny.Decimal folders—but they're not structured, and they lead us back to the chaos from which we're trying to escape.

Hopefully this makes you shudder to your very core

When you see this anti-example you should by now think ‘oh no, look at it, that is hideous, how horribly disorganised, how could anybody live that way?’.

Hopefully. If so, you're on the right path. If you're not, and you genuinely want to be, call me on the phone now and we can have a conversation. I'm not joking. My number is +61 415 658 257.