Austin Kleon blogs about pilers and filers, a dichotomy/spectrum he learned about reading Temple Grandin’s book, _Visual Thinking _, in which Grandin discusses Linda Silverman’s work:

In a presentation about the differences in learning styles, Silverman flashes a slide showing a person with a tidy file cabinet and a person surrounded by messy piles of paper. The “filer” and the “pilers,” to use her terms. You probably know which one you are. What does it say about the way you think?

Kleon says:

All of these “versus” type situations can be rethought as spectrums and/or creative tensions. There are times when I want to access that sequential part of my brain and bring order to things, and filing does that, but there are other times I want to access my visual brain, and piles help.

I am my father’s daughter, which means I’m a piler-filer.

Both my dad and I often have stacks that look like a mess to other people. But when I was a teacher, my colleagues marveled at my ability to run exactly what I needed from one of these piles within seconds.

I also had immaculate file cabinets full of things like student paperwork. I love a label maker.

For me and for my dad, piles are for current projects and files are for reference materials and archives. If something goes into a file before we’re done with it, it ceases to exist until an external event prompts us to track it down, by which point it may be too late for us to have done what we needed to do with it.

A panorama of a desk with multiple stacks of paper, a laptop, two monitors, keyboard, and trackball on it..
This is a panorama of my desk when I was managing editor at LEARN NC. The stacks on the desk and in the standing file were projects in-progress. I filed finished projects in the drawers in the file cabinet/snack station on the left side of the desk.

So. We’re piler-filers. Are you one, the other, or a combination?