When you need to find a computer file—whether it is something for work, the photo you know would be perfect for your holiday cards, or your résumé and letters of reference for that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that just appeared—finding the information you need can be seamless, or it can feel like a wild goose chase. It all depends on how you organize your files.
If you are one of those people with file icons crowding each other all over your desktop, keep reading!
While your computer may conveniently save everything you work on into a giant My Documents folder, sifting through that folder to find what you need can be a real hassle—especially if you're in a rush. If My Desktop is your favorite space to save, you've likely already realized that things can get crowded quickly. And regardless of which place you save to, if someone else needs to access your research or contacts, having a uniform system in place for naming documents and where they are saved could be a big help.
Try these tips for managing your computer files:
- Establish uniform filing names. For example, CHRIS2015 might refer to Christmas 2015, while TCL-SMITH-JOE might refer to "Travel Client-Smith, Joe." Create a uniform naming system for files so that you can easily recognize files. If you work with people who need to access each other's files, a uniform naming system can help alleviate confusion and prevent time wasted in hunting through vaguely named files.
- Creating uniformly named folders can help you and others locate what you need more easily. Instead of seeing hundreds of files when you open up My Documents, imagine a world where just a few folders greeted you. If you use your computer for both work and your personal life, perhaps begin with those two categories. In your "Work" folder, you might establish the following subfolders: Invoices, Client Information, Destinations, Marketing, et cetera. Within your "Personal" folder, you might set up folders for Health, Vacation, Photos, Warranties, Career and other topics.
- Don't expect organization to happen by coincidence. Just as you might allocate a few hours or more to clean out and organize a neglected, overflowing closet, if you haven't been vigilant about organizing your files in the past, it's going to take some time to name things properly and get them sorted into appropriate folders. Set aside time specifically dedicated to the task, knowing that once it's done, you'll just have to do minor maintenance each day.
- Be sure to back up your files periodically. Cloud services make for great backup. And consider storing larger files, such as photos and video, in the cloud, so they don't slow your computer down by using all of its memory for storage.
Just as you might clear off and organize your actual desktop each day, do the same with your files—everything with a proper name, everything in its proper place.
Written by Jennifer Reynolds, contributing writer for West MIchigan Woman magazine.