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(Book)Mark My Words

2002, the year of the crappy job. EVERYONE had a crappy job after 9/11; either you lost your job, or a bunch of other people lost theirs, giving you even more work to do (for paranoid bosses) in their sad retreat. In any case, many of us dulled the pain with constant web surfing, giving rise to the bloated corpse that was the Favorites folder. This piece was the cure for that ailment. (Well, at least it hid the corpse where no one could see it.)

© January 2003, Melissa Bradley Diskin (for The Broadsheet)

Title: (Book)Mark My Words

January is the time to inaugurate the New Year with fresh resolutions for better living. Here is one easily kept resolution for those who love the Internet but wish to save time and sanity in the coming year: Organize your Internet bookmarks.

We all know the symptoms: After months of beating deadlines, of hot-on-the-trail research, or of following your best friend’s email to “check out this great site,” you discover that accessing your entire “Favorites” list now entails scrolling down several screens. Most prominent on your list is www.menwholooklikekennyrogers.com -- and you don’t even like country music.

The most important thing to remember is that the best, most reliable information tends to stay on the Web in one form or another and is easily reached via a good search engine. You don’t have to save everything on your own desktop in order to have it at your digital fingertips.

Now, take action: if your out-of-control bookmarks are on your work computer, create one folder inside your favorites list (In Internet Explorer, go to Favorites>Organize Favorites>Create Folder) and dump every non-work-related link into it. Call it “Funny Stuff” or “Personal” or “Miscellaneous” and set it aside for now. The important thing is to separate the links you need for your job from those you don’t.

Next, take a good look at the remaining work-related links. If you drag and drop different ones next to each other, you’ll find that your bookmarks fall naturally into several categories. The number of categories will differ for each person, but seven to twelve seems to be the magic spread of useful categorization -- and remember, you can always sub-categorize later!

Create folders for these categories, avoiding names like “Work Stuff” that are too generic. A few of your links may not warrant a folder unto themselves – either they’re too specific to be grouped with the others or you use them several times a day. Keep the latter “outside” your list of folders at the top of your list for fast access.

The last step: dealing with your non-work-related links. Feel free to toss a few back into your main bookmark area – a news site or two, a link to Amazon.com, or something similarly useful. (It goes without saying that any link on your list should adhere to workplace rules and regulations regarding Internet usage.) Think of each as a mental health break that keeps you from “all work, no play,” but restrict use during work hours. Like too-frequent coffee breaks, a surfeit of web surfing can shift your career trajectory into low gear.

Now that you’ve organized your working list of sites, what should you do with your “funny stuff?” If you’re feeling brave, delete the folder entirely. You won’t miss it (if you do miss it, you’re in the wrong job.) If you want to hang on to its contents, at least get the folder off your work computer: Go to File>Import and Export and use the wizard to export your these bookmarks to a file that you can save on disk and take home with you, to import into your home computer for laughs and shopping off the company time.

Melissa Bradley Diskin is an information architect and writer living in Atlanta whose Favorites list at home includes a link to the manufacturer of the composted manure she uses in her garden.

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