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.