Using Scrivener with 43 Folders

To coordinate everything I have going on — school, assorted writing projects, shutting things down in New Mexico, having eyes on everything that needs to happen to get to Finland — I’ve had to have an iron-clad day planner. I can’t afford to forget things, I need to capture information as it happens, and I need to have a clear picture of what’s coming and what remains to be done.

Given my druthers, I’d still have a big, fat Franklin-Covey planner like I did in my corporate days. I lugged the thing around with me everywhere, and it every scrap of vital information meticulously recorded in it. Therein lie the problems. I really don’t need one more bulky thing to drag around, and I don’t need something that could be lost or stolen holding all of the intimate details of my life.

I tried using Evernote, which is good except for the lack of calendar and reminder functions. While I found creative ways to use notebooks and tags, my issue was with putting too much personal information on someone else’s server. When I used two computers, a laptop and a desktop machine, the syncing ability made it worthwhile. Now that I only have one machine, well, that’s not a selling point.

Tiddlywiki was my solution for a long time, and I found various plug ins and interesting ways to hack tiddlers and tags. The issue there is that I tend to bloat the files out, and when they begin to glitch they become useless to me. The first time I had a file that refused to save the information I’d just typed in, because it have become corrupt because it was so big, the love affair with that tool was over.

For day to day use, I use a composition book, and I’ll cover that in a separate post. I also carry as stack of index cards, to capture information on the fly. But for large chunks of things, long-range planning, and organizing all of the bits of data that I collect, I’ve started using Scrivener.

Yes, it sounds strange. Scrivener is a writing tool. It’s meant for organizing manuscripts. That’s what makes it work as a calendar, for me. I begin with the 43 Folders approach. In the Binder column on the left I create a folder for each month, and line them up in order: January, February, you know the drill. Inside each folder, I create a page for each day, but only as needed. If I have an appointment on May 4, open the May folder, and if I don’t have a page already set up for the 4th, I create one and add the information I need. I usually put the date and day: 4 SUNDAY, for example.

The ability to add attachments makes it as useful as Evernote. I tend to print things as PDFs, rather than deal with the detritus of dead trees. Receipts, emails, concert tickets, whatever it is I might need. I import them to Scrivener, and attach them to the day I need them. In that capacity, it becomes both a filing cabinet and a scrapbook, because I can add things in Document Notes, or write whole journal entries about things, on the page for that date or on a sub-page attached to that date.

In the morning, I sit down, open up the month folder, open up the day page, review my notes, and add to it. At the end of the day I look it over again, add in things I’ve jotted on index cards or in my composition books, and look over the next day. It works. And someday, if I decide to write a memoir, I’ll have all of this data in an organized, searchable format.