Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Simplify Your File Management

It's just another one of those silly things that you will do later. When there's time.

But there never is.

Or, at least, you never take the time.

What in the world am I talking about? The file system on your computer.

How much time do you waste skimming, searching, and double-clicking in a day? It all depends on the quality of your file system.

Back when I was a working girl, I shared a lot of network files, and I saw the good, the bad and the ugly. The worst offenders were the unfiled files hanging out at the end of the network folder, where you could have scrolled horizontally for about five minutes. (For all the policies and procedures, there never was one about saving files to the main folder. Ugh.)

Here is a great article from a techie perspective that really hits the no-no's of file management. Warning: it's a very complete post.

The system on my home computer got a little loose, especially after I stopped working from home. In general, I try very hard to use basic common sense with the folder structure and file names. I'm doing a little better now, but when my desktop looked like this, the 17 items started making me a bit crazy and I knew it was time to do a little cleanup.

Though I am no computer geek, I'd like to share my own two cents about file management.
  • Ask yourself if you really need a shortcut on the desktop for things that you can easily find on the Start Menu. (Remember you can customize this as well as the task bar.)
  • Try to limit the number of folders or files to what fits on your screen without scrolling. If there are more than 10-15, see what you can group and make more folders or sub-folders.
  • Group files by project, rather than format. Think twice before you make a high-level folder called "labels" or "letters." (This may be okay if it's a subfolder under a project with date information.)
  • Use a YYYY/MM/DD format in file names (as appropriate) so that you can easily sort correspondence such as memos, invoices, quotes, etc.
  • If you use Outlook or another task-management software, schedule a meeting or make yourself a monthly task to take 15-20 minutes to review your file system. Use this time to find a home for stray files, delete unnecessary drafts, and do other tune-ups. You will make up for that time later when you can quickly put your cursor on information that others wasted time looking for.
  • Remember that any organizational system should grow and adapt as the way you work grows and adapts. If your company just changed from a team-based organizational structure to a function-based structure, your file system needs to change, too.
Do you have some other advice to share? Please do.

p.s. If you are looking to improve the way you use your time in a day, check out this idea.

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