Organizing Your Digital Files by Meggin McIntosh, PhD

Mar 8th, 2013

digital diskOrganizing paper files presents its own challenge, but often, even when people have that handled, their digital files may be disorganized.  Here are ten productivity tips to help with this situation (which is a common one):

  1. Recognize that creating and maintaining an organized filing system for your digital files requires time and effort.  Just as you can’t expect your physical space to organize itself (darn it!) neither can you expect your digital system to magically get itself in order (if only!)

  2. Designate one of your computers as the home.  Just as you wear your clothes to work and take them with you on trips (in a variety of suitcases), you know you need to eventually get your clothes back home where you can find them.  This has to be true with your digital files, as well.

  3. You need to get a plan first.  Part of the reason things have gotten spread all over the place and not where they need to be is because you didn’t have a plan.  Now, however, you know you need one.

  4. Determine an overall file structure or scheme.  Think in broad categories first.  For example:


    i.      Marketing
    ii.     Projects
    iii.    Company

  5. Know that you can change the order of your folder names if alphabetical doesn’t serve you well.  For example, you can put a tilde (~) at the beginning of those folders that you want to be at the top of your list when you sort.  You can also number your folders and they will go in numerical order.  This allows you to easily change the order of your folders as your projects change in priority or in the frequency with which you need to be accessing them.

  6. Create your new folders and open a window that displays these new folders.  Size it so that it is large enough to see but is not filling your entire screen.  Note:  If you don’t have two monitors, as suggested in a previous Top Ten Productivity Tips, this is one of those times when you will wish that you did.

  7. Open a second window with your old file structure in it.

  8. Drill down on the folders (folders within folders) that you have created in the past. If you find any folders, files, or documents, that are complete trash, toss them (delete them).

  9. For the folders, files, and documents that you DECIDE to keep, start dragging and dropping them into your new file structure.

  10. Acknowledge that some files and documents are used in multiple categories (e.g., as an entrepreneur, your various projects are likely to be connected, but make a determination as you are reorganizing your files about where they most closely belong. …for now.  You do NOT want to have multiple copies of files and folders in the different categories because this will lead to mayhem and never knowing what is most current.

In an upcoming week, I’ll give you another ten tips for organizing your digital files, but this should give you plenty to work on this week.

© Meggin McIntosh, PhD (also known as “The PhD of Productivity”®) was a university professor for over 15 years and spent five of those years working with faculty at the University of Nevada, Reno.  Since leaving the full-time academic life for the full-time entrepreneurial life, Meggin writes, consults, and does workshops for smart people who want to be more productive, thereby being able to consistently keep their emphasis on excellence. Thus, the name of her company is Emphasis on Excellence, Inc.

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