Disassembling a Disaster Zone

My computer desktop is a disaster. I’ll admit it. It looks like an explosion of every file type ever created. Screen shots and video files lurk in the corners. Folders where I meant to file things during a fit of organization clutter around the center of the screen, waiting to be used.

I know how it happens, and yet am powerless to stop it. A project comes up that needs completing immediately. Instead of finding the right file to save the design or video project, it’s easier to keep it on my desktop so I can access it quickly if I’m working remotely.

Then, it never gets moved…until last week.

It’s funny how a change in the weather sparks some deep, internal desktop cleaning mode. When the snow leaves and the sun starts to show up before 9 a.m., suddenly my desktop is a clean background full of well-labeled folders and endless space.

It takes a little time to accomplish this feat, but once completed, it’s well worth the effort.

So here are a few tips that have helped me capitalize on the instinct of spring cleaning and file my documents where I can actually find them again.

1 – Use a consistent date and project label

Finding documents using the “last opened” feature is great, if it works. Sometimes it doesn’t depending on your platform. A more reliable way to organize files is to ensure the title of the file is as descriptive as possible, but in a style that’s easy to remember. I start with the year, then the month and date in number format followed by the document description and if it’s a draft or final. (2017-0501-BlogPostCleaning-Final) Try to avoid spaces in your file names as that can cause issues.

2 – Create a file structure that makes sense to you and your team. Otherwise, you will not use it.

The worst thing about file structures is not being able to find a document when you need it. To create a structure that works, it takes a little bit of practice and working with others who need to use the same files.

Finding a method to organize files is tricky because everyone approaches in their own way. One method we have agreed on in a joint server space is listing files by type and giving each a letter identifier so the files are grouped logically because of their alphabetic listing.

For example, anything files relating to standard graphics, logos or photos start with A- (ex. A-Logos and A-Photos). This keeps all graphics at the top of our file list. Print documents are filed in folders that start with P instead of just their name. That way when I have informational sheets or brochures that also need printing, they can be filed in P-InformationalSheets and P-Brochures.

This has worked well for us, but would not work well for all teams. That’s fine. Because it works well for us, we use it consistently. That’s the key with any sort of filing system.

3 – Organize things by purpose, not by file type.

One event can include dozens of different file types. Videos, InDesign, Illustrator, Word, Excel, PDF and Access files are just a few of the different file types that could be necessary. Saving things by their use may make more sense for your team if you ever plan to have repeat events. This makes it easy to pull that file and use it in later years.

Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something you can stick to. Make spring cleaning easy on yourself and happy filing!