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Ultra-simple framework to organize your life.

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Hamster system

Boost productivity and reduce stress by organizing your documents, workflow and personal budget with an ultra-simple system loosely inspired in GTD, Todo.txt, OBTF (One Big Text File), Bullet journal (notes on paper), spreadsheets, index cards, inbox zero and desktop zero.

So, how can you start?


Hamster folder - organize your documents

'Every document belongs to a project'.


  • root folder: YOUR NAME

    First of all create a folder in a partition of your disk.
    ALL your stuff will be stored here.
  • main folders: PROJECT STATUS

    Inside your root folder there are 2 folders:

    INBOX (folder to store your active projects) ARCHIVE (folder to store your inactive projects - often organized in bundles)

Project folders

[bundle] #project @subproject -folders

  • bundle of projects: [ ]

    Inside ARCHIVE folder you put [bundles of projects]:
    e.g: [large investor]
  • project (derived from twitter hashtag): #

    Inside INBOX, ARCHIVE or [bundle] folders you put #projects:
    e.g: #house in portugal    
  • subproject (derived from twitter mention): @

    Inside #project folders you put @subprojects:
    e.g: @building permit
  • storage folder: -

    Inside @subprojects you put -storage folders:
    e.g: -drawings


  • use a system that fits your needs 1. Some hints:

    Prefix for template / boilerplate files: $
    e.g: $curriculum

    Prefix for folders where you keep stuff temporarly: _ e.g: _standby

    Prefix for folders where you keep old versions of files: +

  • version files by using a modification date suffix 2: Calendar Versioning

    e.g: yourfile-2019-10-18
    e.g: yourfile+20191018
  • when reasonable reduce unnecessary nesting by merging folders. Hints:

    Prefer: #[email protected]
    Instead of: #project / @onlyOneSubproject

    Prefer: -drawings-details-wall Instead of: -drawings / -details / -wall


  • you only need one permanent desktop shortcut to navigate through your documents:

    Shortcut to INBOX folder

    A shortcut to ARCHIVE is optional - only inactive projects are there.

  • and/or a launcher-file finder 3.

Hamster flow - organize your workflow

'Manage a collection of inputs'.

  • One text file 4 and a paper notebook collect all inputs:

    • actionable inputs (Tasks) are managed in the paper notebook. Non-urgent tasks eventually move to the Calendar section of the text file 5.
    • non-actionable inputs are managed in a (Markdown) text file. Hints:
      • One long file is easier to manage than many short files. 6 See it as a flat wiki and use built-in search for navigation.
      • This file is not write-only: progressively summarize and tree-shake it each time you iterate your notes. You'll leverage your excitement instead of forcing discipline.
      • Ideally, notes are organized by project, not by category. It can be a catalyst for action and reviews.
      • Only store things that surprise you, not stuff you already know.
  • Tasks listed in the Calendar section of the text file have a due date: [ ]

    Dates are inserted before the task description (allowing chronological sorting):

    e.g. inserting a scheduled date: [year-month-day=hour] [2020-11-29=9h] Doctor appointment

    e.g. inserting a trigger/fuzzy date: [date >>] [2020-10-10 >>] Waiting for client feedback after this date

    e.g. inserting a deadline date: [date <

  • Resuming (check also screenshots):

    on a paper notebook:
        Tasks (collection of tasks to be done ASAP)

    on a text file with 2 sections: Calendar (collection of tasks that can/must wait) Notes (collection of thoughts and bookmarks)


  • Calendar section on Sublime text editor. 7


  • Easy text-editor navigation with Markdown (adaptable to YAML for data serialization).


Hamster budget - organize your money

'You may not need a personal budget'.

Does it worth to spend cognitive bandwidth to know that last month I spent €321,83 on groceries? I already know that I spend around €300. What I crave is to feel in control of my finances.

How to do it in a practical way? Track your net worth in a spreadsheet:

  • List all your assets (bank, ebank, stocks, funds, crypto, real estate, whatever) and sum them. List and sum your liabilities (if relevant). Every case is a case so you must build your template from zero.
  • When your net worth is too risky for your personality get more tight.
  • When you feel confortable with your number you can loosen up a bit.
  • I used to track it every month. I loosen up to every quarter.


What does this stuff solve?

Complicated systems always fail on the long-term. Hamster-system aims to be simple and practical.

  • Hamster folder (organize your documents)

    • Transmission of projects with a predictable structure.
    • Prediction (with acceptable accuracy) of filenames and their location. A file finder is great when you remember the filename but less useful when you don't.
  • Hamster flow (organize your workflow)

    • Mix the good parts of many workflow management approaches using your favorite text editor, cloud and a paper notebook. Use Markdown that can be adapted into YAML for data exchange and serialization.
  • Hamster budget (organize your money)

    • Feel in control of your finances spending a couple of hours every quarter. Minimum overhead.

Possible painpoint?

This system is not smartphone oriented. That's not even an issue for me but it might be for you. My strategy, when a paper notebook is not enough (and most times it is), is to email myself the new stuff and take care of it later.

Is this the truth?

Probably not but I test new options and 'tree shake' existent ones agressively. 8

1 - e.g: relevant naming system for architects. I use a great free tool for batch renaming.
2 - After a long trial, "builds" were deprecated. "Modification dates", aka Calendar versioning (CalVer) are more practical and descriptive.
3 - After having tried most options for Windows (win+type, Keypirinha, Everything, Cerebro, Wox, Zazu, Launchy, FARR), I'm using Listary. Pros: Launch and file search without external software, low memory usage (less than 40Mb on win7), fast and configurable. Cons: No calculator function.
4 - Hosted in a cloud (Google Drive, Dropbox, etc) if possible.
5 - A full featured calendar (Google calendar, Apple calendar, etc) might pay off in certain cases.
6 - Try to keep it under 2K lines. If you can't, it means that some excerpts should live independently or even in a more suitable format (e.g. spreadsheet)
7 - Hint: on Sublime press F9 (or F5 on Mac) to sort dates.
8 - Org-mode, Roam research (Foam, Obsidian), Johnny-decimal (...)

Creative Commons License
Hamster-System by Enio Ferreira is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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