Having organized digital files will improve your productivity at home and at work. There are three areas that need to be considered when organizing your digital files. The file name, the file folder structure and where the files are saved are all important. Each area is discussed in detail here.
There are a couple things that need to be considered before digital files can be set up. Consider who will access the files. If you are sharing files with a team of people, they all need to understand and agree with how the files are named. Having those agreements will ensure the success of your organizational system. Be consistent with how digital files are organized so that retrieval is streamlined.
File name is unique to each file you save. When determining a name, consider the files you have and your unique needs. Consider how you retrieve the files. What is the subject you will look for? Is it a client name, date or project number? You will want to include this information in the file name. Use short, but descriptive names. Underscores are a good way to keep proper spacing in the file name.
Include three items in the file name in a consistent order:
- Date – Keep the format of the date consistent (year, month, day, i.e. 2020-04-21)
- Subject – The subject part of the file name will have a few key words that will tell you what to expect when the file is opened (client name or number, project name, or other subject such as “Lectures,” “Contract,” “Invoice”).
- Code – A special code or unique identifier in the file name can help understand the file. These codes could include terminology such as draft, template or final, initial or name of author, version, or other information to help the file stand out.
Directory or File location
The directory or file path, should be simple and consistent across files.
How folders are named is an important part of the file name.
Business files may have names such as the client name, project name, project number, author name, administrative, vendor, contractor and/or facility.
Here are examples of how I would label my files for teaching, business and personal:
- Course Number and Name
- General Course Information
- Lesson Sheets
- Lecture Notes
- Professional Development and Training
- Human Resources
- Client Last Name, Client First Name
- Marketing Contractor
- Graphic Design Contractor
- Carpenter Contractor
- Organizing Contractor, Last Name, First Name
- Kids School
- Kids Activities
- Saving to your desktop, instead just put a short cut on your desktop.
- Overcomplicating and over thinking where files get saved and what the name should be. Keep it simple.
- Avoid confusing abbreviations and acronyms.
Be consistent across all file and folder names. Consider: Google Drive, Box, iCloud, Drop Box, and Email Folders. Pick a method to back up your files. You may select cloud-based storage or an external hard drive. Personal information should be backed up to a removable drive.
Like any organizing project, there are five basic steps to getting your files organized:
- Gather: Make a list of all the categories of files you have. Include physical files, digital files, and email files.
- Sort: Group them into logical categories. There will likely be main categories and subcategories
- Purge: Remove the files that are not needed anymore.
- File: Create files for all of the main categories and subcategories. Place files into the folders in chronological order with the newest files toward the front. When a new file comes in, it is front and center.
- Label: Label the folders. Keep labels consistent across paper files, digital files and email files.
Start from ground zero if you are truly a hot mess. Set up an organized file structure and begin organizing the files that are current. Don’t worry about old files right now. Take some time to work out the bugs of your new file structure. Once you are settled into a routine and your file system has proved to be effective, go back and organize your older files.
At Top Shelf, we love to help busy professionals and families establish an effective filing system to improve productivity and reduce stress. See how we can help you get this area of your busy life organized. Reach out to Jayme for some tips on getting your files organized.
Autumn is a great time to clear out the pantry and make room for fall foods, baking supplies and entertainment planning items. A fresh pantry will reignite your love for cooking and give your kitchen a little refresh. Clearing out and inventorying the food in your pantry can help with your meal planning and grocery shopping. We have put together four simple, practical tips for getting your pantry organized this fall.
- Remove all food and other items from your pantry
You will also want to gather food you have stored in other areas of your home. While the pantry is empty, it’s a great time to thoroughly clean all surfaces for a fresh start. Ahead of this project, consider purchasing the food you typically keep on hand. This is an important part of allocating adequate space in your pantry.
- Sort and categorize your food
During this process, you can categorize the food on your kitchen countertops and dining room table. Remove and dispose of expired food. Relocate nonfood items, especially if your pantry space is limited to another storage area of your kitchen or home. Categorize your food into snacks, canned goods, grains, pastas, nuts & seeds, etc.Strategize where food will go in your pantry based on the categories, quantity of food and convenience. You will want frequently used items within reach. Occasionally used items can go on higher, less convenient shelves. You may or may not want kids snack items within their reach.
- Purchase storage products
If you need them, explore and purchase storage containers that will work well for your pantry. Clear bins work great for corralling snack bars, chips and items that come in soft packaging. If you tend to purchase bulk grains, nuts, etc., you may want to consider tight sealing, clear containers for storage of these items that do not come with their own packaging. Measure your space carefully prior to buying storage items, as you want them to fit well in the space they will be used.Also be careful not to overcomplicate containers. Many times, placing pre-packaged food into containers may be more work than needed. Consider food rotation when deciding on containers. You will want to make sure the older food gets used first. Coordinating containers can make the pantry aesthetically pleasing.I also suggest labels for all containers. This will help ensure everyone knows where to return food to the pantry. Adding pull out drawers and baskets are nice for deep shelves to make all items visible and accessible. You can utilize the pantry doors for storage of lightweight, narrow items.
- Return food to pantry
Returning food to the pantry is fun. This is where you get to utilize any new storage products, decide on the best location for the food, and label the bins and containers. Remember that food goes with food in the pantry. Non-food items go with non-food items, and may need to be stored in other areas. The slow cooker you use two times per year, the holiday candles, or kids craft supplies may not have a home in your pantry, especially if you are low on space. Limit food storage in other areas such as the hall closet, bathroom, garage, and basement unless necessary.
Bonus Step: Create a meal plan that utilizes the food you have in your pantry. This will save you cash on your next shopping trip.
Pantry organizing can be a fun and easy organizing project that is good to do with the season changes. For a kick start on organizing your pantry, see if Top Shelf Home Organizing can help you. Contact Jayme for advice. We love what a fresh pantry will do for you.
We have researched tips and tricks on how to create and maintain an organized office to increase your productivity. An organized office includes a system to manage information and an environment that encourages productivity. You can create a comfortable and organized workspace to make your work time more productive and enjoyable. Here are some of our favorite tips.
Your work environment is so important to your productivity. How the space feels to you and where items are located affect the quality of your workspace.
Consider a well-lit workspace. If natural light is not an option, look for lighting that mimics that of natural light. Be generous on the quantity and location of light fixtures. Also consider the type of light bulbs you install. While fluorescent and LED light bulbs are more economical, those sensitive to this lighting may consider traditional incandescent lighting or warm colored LED bulbs.
Place your desk or work surface in an area that embraces productivity instead of distractions. You may not want to sit where passersby are tempted to stop to chat, or where noises are a distraction. If you have a home office, your most productive place is likely not in the kids’ playroom. Instead consider a room that is relatively far away from the family action.
Have your work equipment in a location that is convenient, but not necessarily on your desktop. Equipment that is used frequently throughout the day should be placed near your workspace. Computer and phone are located on your desk. If you do a lot of video conferencing, your camera should be on your desk ready to go. If you do a lot of scanning, keep your scanner near your desk. Needing to run to another room or another floor to retrieve a print out will have an impact on your productivity. Other frequently used equipment should be placed on a separate piece of furniture nearby, or where it can be easily accessed.
If you are a visual person and tend to create piles on your desktop so that you know right where things are, consider open shelving for your files. If you feel most productive when things are tucked away out of site, then a file cabinet system will work well for you. Either system should be well-labeled so that everything has a place and retrieval of information is easy. Other office basics are important to your workspace, as well. These basics include a good sized trash can and recycle container, a supportive chair, right-sized desk or work surface, and containers to corral office supplies such as pens, pencils, tape, stapler, paperclips and notepads.
Information management, traditionally referred to as paper management, is best completed by a structured system in place to receive, store and reference all the information that comes to you. A structured information management system works if your information is primarily in paper form, digital form or a combination. Similar management systems are set up to manage paper and digital information. Keep in mind that you want to have current projects and information accessible, while past projects and information can be filed away. This will free up space for what you are working on now, but you will still have past projects organized and accessible for future reference.
When you receive information, have an initial place for this information to go. There are five categories for this initial storage system. This system works for emails, physical papers and digital information. This initial storage system is designed to hold information for a few days to up to a month depending on the pace of your work.
- Follow Up
This file is where you place information that needs to be addressed in the near term. This file is addressed during a scheduled time you allocated to follow up on these items. You may need to allow for this time daily, weekly or even monthly. Sub files can be created based on the timeframe required for each action.
- To Do
This file is very similar to your to-do list. This is where you place items that have a deadline and cannot be overlooked. This may include membership renewals, client follow ups, etc. This file may also include emails and publications that you wish to unsubscribe from. This file may also be called “Waiting on Response,” if your workflow is dependent on others to respond or complete tasks.
- To Read
This file is where you place items that you intend to read and absorb at a later time. These items do not necessarily have a deadline, but instead are items of interest to you. This file is designed to prevent you from getting distracted by an interesting article when you are in the process of completing other tasks.
- To Pay
This is the file where you place items that have to be paid by a certain date. This can include vendor invoices, utility bills, credit card statements, etc. This file is kept separate from the to-do file since it involves money, and timely payment is important due to budgets and due dates.
- To File
A file designated to items that need to be filed is also important. This is where you place items that have been addressed, but eventually need to be filed for long-term storage. This includes physical files, digital files and emails.
A long-term file is where information that needs to be saved can be archived. When you receive an email or piece of mail that can go directly into longer term filing, set up a system that does this for you automatically. Emails can be automatically labeled and filed without any additional work on your part.
Setting up a consistent filing system for the long-term files is very important. For example, if you have file folder on your hard drive or in the cloud for storing client invoices, you will likely have an email file for the same client. Naming these similar files in a consistent way will make retrieving information much more efficient. If you have an invoice from Top Shelf Home Organizing, you might consider creating a file titled “Top Shelf Home Organizing” on both your drive and your email. If you identify your clients with a contract number, consider utilizing the contract number in your file naming convention. The important point here is to keep the naming convention consistent across physical files, digital files and email files.
IF setting up and/or maintaining a productive office environment and structured filing system is overwhelming, consider having an office assistant or a professional organizer help you. See if Top Shelf Home Organizing can help you get your next organizing project started and completed. Contact Jayme to schedule a consult or chat about organizing.
When consulting with a professional organizer, they will ask a set of important questions. To prepare you for your own organizing project, or for your first meeting with an organizer, a list of these standard questions is below. Why these questions are so important is included as well.
Who will the work be done for? Are you getting yourself organized or is this for a family member or a friend?
Location where the organizer will be working so travel time can be planned, as well as access to stores where supplies may need to be purchased to complete a project.
- Phone and Email Address
Phone number and email address are needed for contacting you with questions before, during and after the project, as well as invoicing and follow-up coaching.
- Area(s) to be organized
Create a list of areas you desire to have organized in order of their priority. Have this question prepared before you have an on-site consultation with an organizer so they can help you set goals and prioritize your needs. Setting a reasonable timeframe for when you would like the projects complete is helpful for planning and budgeting the project.
- Who uses the space?
It is helpful to know who uses the space to be organized. This could be employees, children, adult family members, your self or nanny/babysitter.
- What is the space used for?
What a space is used for helps prioritize what items should be left in the space. If a kitchen, for example, doubles as an office or kids craft area, space may be allocated for storing those other supplies.
- What is your time frame for meeting your goals?
Do you want your spaces organized in the near term, or do you want your top priority completed sooner and the rest of your goals spread out through the next months or year
- What are your biggest obstacles to getting this space organized?
Understanding what your personal obstacles for organizing and maintaining organization in the space helps the organizer plan the project. Obstacles often include time, family members and budget.
- What are your goals?
What does an organized space look like to you? Everyone has a different perspective on being organized. One person may prefer everything sorted by category in neatly labeled and matching containers. Another person may feel organized by having items in their correct location, but not necessarily neatly labeled with matching bins.
- Will you be working with the organizer the entire time, some of the time or not at all?
Do you plan to work one-on-one with the organizer? Or do you plan to have the organizer complete the project independently? Working with the organizer for part of the time is also an option. Think about what works best for you and your schedule.
- What is your budget for organizing?
Communicating your budget with the organizer helps them plan for your custom project and what materials may need to be purchased. A lower budget project can reuse boxes and bins that you currently own. A higher budget project may allow for new storage solutions.
- Have you worked with an organizer before?
Understanding if you have worked with an organizer before and what you enjoyed most about the experience is helpful for customizing your session.
- How many people live in the home?
Knowing how many people live in the home or work in an office is also important. Clear labels and communication on storage solutions is more important to the success of an organizing project with more people involved. A single person is able to maintain an organized space with less labels and communication.
- How long have you lived in your home?
Learning how long a person or family has been in a home gives insight to the duration and quantity of items that may be in a home.
- Do you have a storage unit?
It is helpful to know if and what items are stored offsite.
- Do you have storage in your attic?
It is helpful to know if you do and what items are in storage in your home.
- Do you have storage in your basement?
It is helpful to know if you do and what items are in storage in your home.
- Do you have any questions for the organizer?
Preparing a list of questions upfront for your organizer will help you determine if hiring an organizer is a good fit for you, and if he or she is someone you think matches your lifestyle, personality and needs.
These are great questions to think about before contacting a professional organizer. The questions will help you prepare for and make the most of the initial phone conversation or on-site consultation. At Top Shelf Home Organizing, we love to help busy people get organized. See if Top Shelf Home Organizing can help you get your next organizing project started and completed. Contact Jayme to schedule a consult or chat about organizing.