We need a central index

We need one source of truth for our numbers so that we don't end up duplicating numbers by accident. You might think that your folder structure—in Finder or Windows Explorer—is that source of truth, but it isn't.

You want to be able to search for things

One of the core ideas of the Johnny.Decimal system is that you never actually have to remember any numbers. Now, you might remember them just because you're smart, but you can't rely on that.

You need a system that allows you to:

  1. Search for things (i.e. any title with the word 'Office' in it).
  2. Narrow down your list by area or category (i.e. show me everything in my 22 Contracts category).
  3. Quickly figure out what the next available number in any category is.

You don't always store a file

Think about the last page, where we talked about notes. When you become more familiar with the system you'll find yourself creating Johnny.Decimal numbers for tons of things, not just files you need to keep. If your file system is your index, that's not going to work.

We need some sort of database. I'm in the process of writing a little web app specifically for this purpose, but until that's finished we need something else.

Excel or Google Sheets

The solution is a simple one, because think about what we're storing. It only needs to look like this.

| Area                 | Category       | Johnny.Decimal number | Title             |
|----------------------|----------------|-----------------------|-------------------|
| 10-19 Finance        | 11 Tax returns | 11.01                 | 2016 tax return   |
| 10-19 Finance        | 11 Tax returns | 11.02                 | 2017 tax return   |
| 10-19 Finance        | 12 Payroll     | 12.01                 | ...etc            |
| 20-29 Administration | 22 Contracts   | 22.01                 | Cleaning contract |
| 20-29 Administration | 22 Contracts   | 22.02                 | Office lease      |
| ...etc.              |                |                       |                   |

That's it. So, you can either build your own version in Excel or use this version that I've created in Google Sheets.

[instructions to follow]