Ponderings: Staying “on task”

(Warning: long post ahead)

I was sorting out my photos recently, in an attempt to keep my photos in order and clear my backlog of photos. I have left most of my photos unsorted since last year when I went on exchange, and what was on my computer was just folders and folders of photos as I continually import them from my camera, but did nothing more than that. I have also been neglecting photo printings for years; since 2012 to be exact so that’s a really long time.

There’s a lot of reason why I haven been “on task” with my photos: a mental block that it takes a lot of effort to settle them all, even more effort require to pick out photos and send them for printing, taking too much photos, not being able to find a good photo printer service, not having a system that works the way I want it to. Right now though, I know that some of these are false, or that the problem has been solved. Or sometimes, all it needs is a sudden motivation that brings you to settle them all. In my case, it was a really good deal for photo printing during this holiday season, hence I wanted to get it over and done with while saving money in the process.

Here’s what I’ve learnt these past few years from my photos problem: 

1. Photo sorting is actually not that difficult. 
Well, it’s true! Especially if you are the one who takes the photo, somewhere within your brain lies the memory of taking the photo. Which helps a lot when you are sorting them – you know where you took them, you vaguely remember how many photos you took, you remember why certain photos were blur. It all helps, and just today, I sorted through about 200 photos or more and it just took me an hour or so.

2. Don’t be afraid of deleting photos. 
It hurts to have too much photos, because it’s just like information overload – there’s just too much! And too much means mess and stress, which is not something we want. Hence I get pretty liberal at deleting photos.
Several similar shots/viewpoints? Delete all but one or two. Because really, why do you need ten photos of the same thing from the same viewpoint when only one is sufficient to say it all?
Blur photos? Delete them all. And I really mean delete them ALL because think about it, what can you do with those photos? You won’t print them because they are blur, you can’t sharpen them. It’s just not worth saving them.
Photos of things that you don’t remember? Delete them all. If you don’t remember the photo when you look through them again, chances are you are never going to remember it. And if it is something you don’t know about, then that photo loses its significance and meaning and thus play no role in your memory keeping.
Photos that don’t feel significant anymore? Delete them. I think this is especially true when we go travelling, and we want to take everything we see because it’s new and interesting. But when you get home you wonder why you took that photo, and it becomes just another photo. Again, I think they play no role in your memory keeping.
If you are unsure about deleting photos for their content rather than their quality though, I think it would be wiser to leave them alone for now. You can always come back again and decide once more if they ought to be deleted. I tend to depend on my gut instincts when I am deleting photos based on their excessive content.

3. Take less photos. 
Less photos means you have lesser photos to sort and lesser photos to decide to delete, which saves a lot of hassle when you are sorting out your photos, and when you want to print them. I am getting more conservative about taking photos nowadays, which is a big difference from say five years ago. I think carefully now about what I want to take, and thus each photo I take is meaningful and has its purpose: a place we visited, a beautiful scenery, something I want to remember, an event, etc. This is the most significant change that I have made in my photography habits, and it has helped me a lot.

4. Find a system that works for you.
This takes a bit of trial and error. For my photo organising system, I like to go by periods of life, like high school, university, and then separated by different social circle groups. This means that there is a lot of folders in folders but it’s something that works for me, and I can find photos more easily this way rather than going chronologically. I find myself forgetting the exact year that something happen, and it’s a hassle to count backwards. I’m sure I’m not the only one thinking this.

For the actual memory keeping system, it has taken me a long long time to figure out a method that works for me. I used to use photo albums, systematically placing the photos within them, but it annoys me to no end because there’s sometimes a lot of space wastage from the different photo orientation, and that it is troublesome to make notes – I have to individually cut out pieces of paper. It’s just too much work so I don’t do them, and there’s always this nagging feeling that I shouldn’t leave my photos unlabelled and all. But right now, I have figured out a system that works for me. I have been making photobooks for specific events, particularly overseas trips. I like these, because technically I can include as many photos as I want within the page limit, and that I can resize the photos to any size I want. That means scenery photos can take up one entire page, while nine photos of interesting street sights can take a page. Most importantly though, is the ability to add text at little to no hassle! All I need to do it to type them out, rearrange the size of the text book, and place them anywhere on the page, even on the photos themselves. As for normal everyday life photos, I have taken to scrapbooking them. This allows me to be more on task, as I scrapbook as my life goes along. I don’t scrapbook everyday, and I don’t need to. I just pick out specific events that I would want to remember and scrapbook them.

5. It’s ok to not be on task.
We don’t always stay on top in out lives. We stop, we lose motivation. And it’s ok. What’s important is when you want to get on track again, to not try to salvage the past. Instead, manage the present. When you try to salvage the past, you get so caught up in it that you add the present to your pile of things to worry about as they slowly but surely become the past. Salvaging the past is also not good for your emotional well-being, as you constant remind yourself or bemoan yourself for not being on task previously. So start from the present, you will feel better about it, as you get on task, and this might encourage and motivate you enough that when you finally try to salvage the past, you find that it isn’t as difficult as before.

6. You look back and find that things are not that significant anymore in the bigger scheme of things.
I have a folder of photos that is labelled “to print”. As I look at them, I find that there are some photos that I don’t find the need to print anymore. While we all want to include as much photos as possible to detail the memory, often we find that it’s becomes unnecessary.

If you haven’t learnt anything yet, the key to reducing stress and being on task is to go minimalist. I think scrapbooking have forced me to work within limits, and I find that it has helped me a lot, not just in photos managing. Another key message here is to remember that it is ok to just let things go and start from where you are. Live in the present, not the past. It will be less stressful, and less psychologically tiring.

Really long ponderings today, but I really wanted to share my thoughts and leanings from this matter. Hope you have learnt something too from this long post.

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