Organize Your Files to Save Your Sanity

Disorganization of computer files often starts the same way. First, it's with just adding one little file to your desktop. Then another. And another. Before you know it, your cute wallpaper of your puppy is completely covered with little icons. Just to be able to see his sweet face again you make a folder called Stuff and drag all those loose files in there. Messy computer desktop with dog wallpaper Until it happens again. Now you have Stuff and Stuff 2. What happens when you need to send someone all of your files related to your latest design or project? It’s digging time. Ooops! You’ve got to sort through all the recipes you downloaded, pictures of your sister’s baby, and random screenshots to make sure you didn’t leave an important file sitting in “Stuff” or “Stuff 2”. Disorganized files, especially when you’re working on a team or with a system that needs many files and their specific locations, like a website, can cost you time and essentially money. Cleaning up your files can seem like a boring digital chore, but actually paying attention to the system that you were using before could unearth some hidden gems that you might have completely forgotten that you saved. While some think that a messy desk is a better way to stay creative having a messy desktop and file system keeps you from being productive. If you organize your files, you'll have such a better time. Actually organizing them might not be the most fun thing to do, but it's still something that's necessary. Here are a few ways to help get your growing messy piles or digital files under control.

Get started

The hardest part of getting organized is actually getting started. You probably have so many files that you don't even know where to start. My best advice is to take some time to think of a system that's logical to you an just start moving files around. Work with your new system for a few days and then reevaluate it. If you find yourself grasping for the clutch of using the quick search to find files again, then the system you picked is probably flawed. Once you decide on a system that makes sense to you, you can move on.

Develop a Naming Convention - and stick to it!

I'm not saying that every image you have on your computer should have a name like bradrunningonthebeachwithapurpleball.jpg, but they should have a name like beachtrip01.jpg and be stored in a folder like beachtrip0215. Renaming things like photos that are often assigned a name by your computer, will help you to find what you're looking for later. Sometimes it's helpful to include the date with the file, or at least the year. If you're saving your tax return you'll probably want to name it TaxReturn2015 instead of just TaxReturn. Then, put all your tax returns in a folder called TaxReturns and put that folder inside a folder called Finances. File structure by date Your files names shouldn't be super long either. If you've placed them within the correct files you might only need a brief name.

Take action

Someone sent you file you need to save? Don't just save it to your desktop and move on to your next email. Save the file in a meaningful place with a meaningful name. Spending the extra two seconds to file it properly immediately will save you so much more time late. Get in the habit of clicking Save As and naming the file to your conventions and storing it where it belongs instead of in the often neglected and overloaded Downloads folder. If you still need access to files quickly or you're not exactly sure where the best place to file it is then create a To-Do or Inbox folder on your desktop. Set a standing date on your computer's calender once a week, or at the end of the day, whichever works best for you, to find a home for the To-Do files. On it's face, it might not seem like saving a file to To-Do is really that different from saving it in Stuff, but at the core it's completely different. A file that's marked To-Do has a purpose. A file that's shoved in the "Stuff" folder doesn't have a future. Don't create more than one To-Do file either. That will just exasperate the problem in a different way.

Clear out your downloads

By default, everything that you download online will end up in your Downloads folder. There's nothing necessarily wrong with that, as long as you spend time to put the newly downloaded content in the correct place with a meaningful name. For example, if you download an image from Flickr, you'll end up with a file name that's something like: 2593494086_a41155a12e_o. How on earth are you supposed to remember what that is? As soon as it's downloaded change the name of the file to something that fits into your naming conventions. If you don't have time to find the perfect place for it yet, put it in your To-Do folder.

Create Shortcuts

Don't muddy up the waters by duplicating your files if you need them in more than one place. Simply create a shortcut to the file in the folder where it doesn't really "belong". For example, you're making a file that has all the media needed for your portfolio. Instead of copying the files from their original folders just create a shortcut to them in your portfolio folder. If you need to copy the file for backup purposes definitely still copy it. Don't create a shortcut as a backup.   While organizing your files might seem like you're doing mundane work at first, but once you have a system you enjoy and that truly works for you, you'll be able to work much more efficiently, quickly and effectively.