Essential Steps of Electronic Organizing
I’ve spent quite a bit of time talking about organization of paper files. However, our computers are becoming just as cluttered as our paper files and in need of organization too. If your computer desktop resembles your junk drawer, read on to learn how you can clean up and organize your computer files, free up space, and make it much easier to find documents when you need them.
1. Back up first. Before you start deleting, moving and re-naming computer documents, be sure to back up to the cloud or an external hard drive. Experts recommend the 3-2-1 backup:
Keep 3 copies of your data (your original source and 2 backups)
Keep backup on 2 storage types (your internal hard drive and an external hard drive or the cloud)
Keep 1 copy of data offsite (such as the cloud or an offsite location)
2. Identify categories. Browse through your files to determine what your highest-level folders, or categories, are. For example, you may have “Business”, “Medical”, “Financial”, and “Personal” files. These should mimic your paper file categories. These top-level folders should reside in your “Documents” folder – not on your computer desktop.
3. Make folders. Within each category you created above, you will have folders and subfolders. These may be years, or any other sub-category that will make sense to you. You can have many layers of subfolders. Also, you need to create file names that will make sense to you when looking for files. As an example, you might have the following hierarchy of folders:
Category = Financial
Folder = Years (2016, 2017, 2018, etc.)
Subfolder = Financial institutions (Wells Fargo, Chase, FirstBank, etc.)
Subfolder = Months (Jan, Feb, Mar, etc.)
4. Name files consistently. Like a library, develop a consistent naming structure for your files. Use meaningful, descriptive words. Include month and/or year at the front of the title. This will make it much easier to search for files. For example: 02.2017 Wells Fargo Stmt. In this case, the documents will be sorted in order by month and year.
5. Declutter old files. This is the most difficult part, requiring you to go through all your old files. Purge documents you no longer need. Move files to your new folders. Rename files consistent with your new naming structure. This step also includes cleaning out your photos and videos to eliminate blurry, duplicate and poor-quality ones.
6. Clear your desktop. Just like ridding paper piles on your physical desk, clear the clutter off your computer desktop. Retain only projects in process. Delete unneeded files and move others to the appropriate folder.
7. Maintain. Schedule regular maintenance to keep digital clutter at bay. Back up, clear your desktop, and empty your download folders and trash can weekly. On a monthly basis, delete temporary files, put photos and videos in long term storage, and purge text messages. A few times a year make sure to change your passwords, delete unneeded files, photos and videos, and clean up your bookmarks.
Decluttering and organizing your digital data is a big task the first time you do it, but the payoff is immediate. No more using your search box to find your files! You’ll free up computer space, improve your productivity, and enjoy peace of mind. I hope this gives you a kick start for the new year!