I was talking with my client last week about her newsletter. While we were on the phone, she began struggling to find a document I had sent a few months ago. She looked in her email, searched her hard drive, and even looked through a pile of papers she had stacked on her desk.
After roughly 3 minutes, I asked, “How do you organise your digital files?” She said she keeps them in her computer's “My Documents” folder.
And it turns out that’s exactly what she meant. She has everything, thousands of files spanning years and years, sitting there, completely unorganised, in one big bin. It’s the digital equivalent of “filing” your documents by opening the basement door and throwing them down the stairs. No wonder she was frustrated!
So, here are my three tips to save time and frustration:
1. Think in terms of categories. When setting up a new file structure, think about the different buckets you’ll need to store your information. Then make a separate folder for each. In my case, for example, my main categories are:
- Clients – all client-related files are found here
- Business – this is where I store the information used to run my business
- Personal – everything else – photos, family documents, etc.
Categorising is more efficient than organising filing by date (as you might with paper files). This way, you’ll never have to remember “when,” just the more obvious “what.”
2. Make use of sub-folders. Within each primary folder, I create sub-folders – again grouped by category. So, for example, within my “Clients” folder, I have additional sub-folders by client name. Inside each of those, I have more sub-folders (e.g., newsletter drafts, logos, projects).
3. Choose meaningful file names. To make finding documents as easy as possible, make sure to give a meaningful name to each one. Not only does this allow you to find what you need quickly (without having to keep opening documents and looking to see what’s in there), it makes searching your folders quicker, too!
According to Newsweek, the average American spends 55 minutes a day looking for things they can’t find - and I’m sure Canadians have a similar stat (but, ironically, I can’t seem to find it!). I can’t help you with your lost sunglasses, but if you follow these simple digital filing concepts, you can definitely bring that number down!