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Mom's brain as the family's Web 2.0

As a mom, my brain has become the family hard drive, so why not let my computer's hard drive take some of the load off my brain? One person's cluttered in-box is another person's Web 2.0, full of useful information to be mined.

Among two-parent, Mom and Dad families, most women feel that the "Mom" role means that her brain becomes not only the family's collective memory store, but its search engine as well. Even Google can't answer questions such as:

"Mom, where's Princess Leia's shoe?" (At the bottom of the blue box in the playroom.)

"Honey, are we out of toilet paper?" (Look in the kids' bathroom.)

When are our property taxes due....when is my next dental check-up...what day is the dog's birthday?

It's all here in my brain, which works pretty efficiently to keep track of the family. This background task definitely feels like a burden on some days, which is why I am excited to try various services such as Cozi Central, which promises to consolidate this function in an online location that all family members can access.

Even so, I have no illusions that Mom's Brain is about to be put out of the family business any time soon. And my methods of data processing and storage tend to get a little messy. My real desktop and virtual desktops are full of stacks of books and documents that make sense to me but would not pass as organized to the outside world. And my email in-box contains 26,500 messages.

But I have decided that one person's clutter is another person's Web 2.0. If my brain is like the family hard drive, then why can't my hard drive serve as an extension of my brain? There is a lot of good information and history in my email in-box. As an author I am an information magpie, picking up ideas or connections now that will likely come in handy much later. Apple Mail's standard "search mailbox" function allows me to find people, websites, articles or ideas from my own history. This is becoming even more important as I juggle multiple writing projects. I read so many different news sources that I can no longer always remember where I saw an interesting article. So I email it to myself so that I can find a the reference later.

I was cheered to find a kindred spirit on today, as Scott Rosenberg's article Empty Thine In-Box challenges Getting Things Done and other productivity strategies that tell us that we should keep our in-boxes pristine and empty. What use is that? Rosenberg is a megabyte pack rat just like me. He says, "My in-box is not a desk that must be cleared. It is a river from which I can always easily fish whatever needs my attention. Why try to push the river? Computer storage is cheaper than my time; archiving is easier than deleting."

Rosenberg serves up a self-help idea whose time has come: a messy in-box is only a problem if it makes you feel like a failure. Count me in the emerging camp that seems to find a use for information overload. I am never going to empty that in-box anyway, so I may as well embrace it.