Organising and Decluttering My Documents

July 20, 2011

My filing system is pretty good … it needs to be!  In saying that, I have a tendency to keep every file, rather than archive or delete.  Often this pays off, as a client I may not have heard from in a while suddenly sends through an email stating that they are ready to revise their catalogue.  Do I still have the original files?

I do have the file, however this retention of electronic documents does come at a price.  With all the documents I have in folders, organisation is key.

The search function is a wonderful thing but it will never match the ease of being able to go directly to a folder or file. If you follow these file management tips consistently, even if you don’t know where something is, you know where it should be – a huge advantage when it comes to finding what you’re looking for.

These file management tips should help you in your quest for well organised, easy to find documents:

1.           Organize by file types.
Make applications easier to find by creating a folder called Program Files on your drive and keeping all your applications there. For instance, the executables for Word, PowerPoint and Simply Accounting would all reside in the Program Files folder.

2.           Follow the file naming conventions.
Even though you can use long file names in Windows, you should not necessarily do so. Long file names can be harder to read.  Do not use spaces in file names, keep file names under 27 characters, and use all lower case. So a file named for a client should be “fimilajames rather than Famila James. If you break any of these rules, be consistent about it.

3.             One place for all.
Place all documents in the My Documents folder and nowhere else. So whether it’s a spreadsheet, a letter or a PowerPoint presentation, it goes here. This will make it easier to find things and to run backups.

4.             Order your files for your convenience.
If there are folders or files that you use a lot, force them to the top of the file list by renaming them with a ‘1’ or an ‘AA’ at the beginning of the file name.  Alternatively, you can view your documents in date order which will bring the most recent documents to the top of your list.

5.           Create folders in My Documents.
These are the drawers of your computer’s filing cabinet, so to speak. Use plain language to name your folders; you don’t want to be looking at this list of folders in the future and wondering what “SES” or whatever other interesting abbreviation you invented means.

6.           Nest folders within folders.
Create other folders within these main folders as need arises. For instance, a folder called “customer x” might contain nested folders called “marketing”, “accounts” and “presentations”. Use your folders to keep documents filed in easy to find ‘groups or categories’.

7.           Be specific.
Give files logical, specific names and include dates in file names if possible. The goal when naming files is to be able to tell what the file is about without having to open it and look. So if the document is a letter to a supplier confirming your indent order, name the file “2001indentordersupplierx”.  Or let your folders do most of the work:
Indent Orders
      Supplier X
            Document (shoeorder.docx)
8.           File as you go.
The best time to file a document is when you first create it. So get in the habit of using the “Save As” dialogue box to file your document as well as name it, putting it in the right place in the first place.

9.           Cull your files regularly.
Sometimes what’s old is obvious as in the example of the folder named “Invoices” above. If it’s not, keep your folders uncluttered by clearing out the old files. Do not delete business related files unless you are absolutely certain that you will never need the file again. Instead, in your main collection of folders in My Documents, create a folder called “Old” or “Inactive” and move old files into it when you come across them.

10.       Back up your files regularly.
Whether you’re copying your files onto another drive, online program or onto tape, it’s important to set up and follow a regular back up regiment.

11.       Use shortcuts and shortcut links instead of multiple copies.
If you need to get to the same file from multiple locations, don’t create copies of the file. Create shortcuts to it instead. Shortcuts are links to files or programs and are represented by icons with an arrow in the lower-left corner. To create a shortcut, right-click the file and then click Create Shortcut. You can drag the shortcut to other locations. Microsoft Office 2010 includes some built-in shortcuts with the new Backstage view. To see Backstage view, open an Office file and then click the File tab. In Backstage view, click the Recent tab for a list of links to your recent documents. The Recent tab even includes a Recover Unsaved Documents option. In Backstage view, you can create, save, and send documents, inspect documents for hidden metadata or personal information, set options, and more.

12.       Quickly get to the items you use every day.
Jump Lists, a fun new feature in Windows 7, are lists of recently opened items, such as files, folders, or websites that are organized by the program that you use to open them. You can use a Jump List to open items, and you can even pin favourites to a Jump List. To see a Jump List for a particular program, just right-click the program button on the taskbar.

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