How to Organize Your Files…and Remember Where Everything Is, Part 2

By Alyssa Gregory

desktop searchIn my previous post, I outlined how to get your files on your computer organized in a way that makes sense to you and makes it easy to find what you need when you need it. This post will provide tips for using your new system and managing it effectively so it continues to work for you.

Delete, Delete, Delete…or At Least Archive

As you manage your files on an ongoing basis, you should delete liberally, but sensibly. If you are a pack rat by nature, you will have to work extra hard to fight the urge to keep everything “just in case,” but it’s the only way to keep your computer clutter-free.

As a rule, I delete just about everything I download during my day – PDFs, images, files to review. The good news is that if I downloaded it from the web, I will most likely be able to find it again if I need it. If I downloaded it from an email, I still have a copy sitting in my email archive (a post for another day!), so nothing will be lost forever.

If there are certain files that you just don’t have time to file or figure out if you really do need, you can create a “pending” directory and throw stuff in there until you can weed through. But use that folder with caution! It’s way too easy to take advantage of such a directory and create a huge mess that will take you hours to deal with.

Utilize Search

Even if you have a perfect file structure and always file what you need to file where it needs to be filed, if you have a lot of documents, desktop search will be your best friend. Being able to plug in a keyword or two and find what you need is a lot quicker than scrolling through screens and screens of files.

You can use the search functionality that’s native on your operating system, or a downloadable add-on such as:

Focus on Organic Consistency

It’s important that you set up your system in a way that makes sense to you, otherwise you’ll be making yourself work harder than you need to in order to maintain it. So, from the beginning, focus on creating a system that feels natural to you.

If you need to incorporate a new approach that you’re not used to, create a cheat sheet that will trigger your memory and help you learn the system. If you continue to struggle remembering where you filed something, you probably need to revisit and revise your system.

The biggest factor that leads to a well-organized computer is consistency. If you commit to regularly filing your documents and updating your file structure to reflect your current needs, your system will be much easier to maintain and use effectively.

Back It All Up

It should go without saying that you should be backing all of your files on an daily basis, but I’ll say it anyway. If you’re not backing up your data, it doesn’t make much sense to spend the time and energy to organize it.

Plan an Organization Day

File organization is one of those things you need to do over and over again. It’s expected that your file structure will grow and change as your business grows and changes. And you’re not going to be able to file everything immediately all the time. Clutter will inevitably build up, so plan a few hours or half a day every few weeks to weed through and clean up your files. This will help you keep your computer running like it should.

And that’s how I organize and manage the files on my computer. What’s your system? How do you stay on top of your computer files?

Image credit: florinf

  • http://www.virvo.com Web-Development

    Im glad you said three times, because I totally agree that the most important part about keeping files organized, is to reduce the number of files you have to keep organized (by deleting useless stuff).

    If only others would agree with this pholisophy, we would have so much more hard drive space :|

  • trifectatech

    Great article! Concerning search add-ons, I believe the native search utilities found in Mac OS X and Windows 7 are quite excellent in their own right. For the Mac though there are two search add-ons that can really help streamline the file discovery process: QuickSilver and Google’s Quick Search Box

  • http://www.jakub.chodorowicz.pl/ chodorowicz

    the best search tool for Windows: Everything Search Engine http://www.voidtools.com/



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