Files organized by date.

Five File Organization Tips

File organization isn’t fun. That probably explains why so few people actually do it.  We all think we’re far too busy to organize our files until the day we’re stuck spending hours searching for files we needed for a meeting that started five minutes ago.

Since we’re already talking about a dry topic, let’s not drag it out.  These are the only file organization tips you’ll ever need.

Tip 1: Don’t Just Click Save

Are you the type of person who just clicks the first button you see when a window appears?  Shame on you! That’s how you lose files, accidentally install malware, or print sensitive documents to the wrong printer and you deserve a firm spanking for your behavior.

When you save a file, always check where you’re saving it if you plan on needing it later.

"Thy HIPPA protected information hast been compromised. I deserve a spanking!"

“Thy HIPPA protected data hast been compromised. I deserve a spanking!”

Tip 2: Decide on a File Organization Method

So you want to organize your files.  Awesome! But how?  Your computer lets you structure your files into folders and sub-folders, so use them to organize your files into a structure that fits your workflow. Organize from general to specific.

  • If your work is time sensitive that might mean you create a structure likeyear\month\day and store files for each day under the appropriate day. Take advantage of your computer’s ability to sort by name by using full years like “1999” and “2015” and two-digit days like “01, 02, … 31” so they’re always sorted from first to last.
  •  If you manage a lot of clients, you might want to sort by client and by project like clients\client name\project name.

These are merely suggestions, so think about it and come up with a structure that suits your needs. Then, proceed to Tip #3.

Files organized by date.

Files organized by date.

Tip #3: Stick to It!

So you’ve got a slick file organization structure.  But you’re a busy person with many important things to do.  You certainly can’t be bothered to spend two seconds saving your files to the right place, can you? You can if you want to find them! Think about the productivity lost looking for files, or recreating them when you give up on finding them. Take the moment it requires to put your files where they need to go, and add to your folder structure as needed.

File organization isn’t a thing you do once or a service you buy. It’s an ongoing process.

Tip #4: Your Desktop is Not a Dumping Ground

Many people turn their Desktop, their My Documents folder, or both into a dumping ground for everything. Don’t.  Just don’t.  Finding a file on a cluttered desktop is annoying and time-consuming.  Instead, place a shortcut on your desktop to the folder where your organizational structure starts.

Saving everything to My Documents is problematic too.  Eventually you’ll have so many files under that single folder that nothing is easy to find.  It’s fine if your organizational structure starts under My Documents, but you should have multiple sub-folders instead of a single folder containing hundreds of files.

Saving everything to My Documents does not constitute File Organization, and will earn you another spanking.

Saving everything to My Documents does not constitute File Organization, and will earn you another spanking.

 

Tip #5: Use Cloud Storage

Now that your files are well-organized and you can easily locate the information you need, the next step is have access to your files whenever you need them.  Use a cloud storage service like DropBox, OneDrive, or Google Drive  to sync your files to the cloud. These services act just like any other folder on your computer, but when you save files into them they automatically save to the Internet.

What do you gain? You gain access to your files wherever, and whenever. It also means you’ve got a copy of your files sitting out on the Internet, so they’re protected from crashes.

Of course there are some exceptions. I take a lot of HD GoPro video.  I store these outside of my DropBox because saving Gigabytes of video to the cloud would be both expensive and time-consuming.

Bonus Tip: Other Backup Options

If you’re not storing your files to the cloud, you should make sure you’re using some other form of backup.  One good option is a cheap external hard drive and the backup software integrated into your operating system.