Computers are designed to store digital files in an organized and efficient manner. They are machines - they like straightforward processing. However, we users are mere humans, right? So, if we use our computers frequently (daily!?) we can create quite a mess for ourselves. Just like with paper documents, it is critical to come up with a way to sort things out. Here's some advice on keeping your digital files organized and easy to access.
Don't Overcomplicate It
It's important to not go overboard with the creation of folders and sub-folders. As long as you don’t have a bunch of files cluttering your "documents” or “downloads” folders, you probably have a good understanding of how to maintain your digital storage. Create folders in a way that is easy for you to navigate and understand. I recommend an organizational structure of no more than three layers deep.
Organize Your File Structure
There are so many different ways you can structure the files on your computer that it's impossible to go over every possible method. To each his own. However, the best way to start is to create several folders for very broad groups of files and moving all of your files into them. I’m always a proponent of structuring any paper or information system into: Action, Reference, Archive. From there, you might sort your files into folders labeled "Work," "Personal," and "Games." Once you've done this, you can look in each folder and see how you can sort the contents into even more sub-folders.
Continuing the example from above, you might decide to sort your work folder into sub-folders called "Projects" and "Reports.” Or you may be a fan of David Allen and use the GTD structure - or any other tried and true system that makes logical sense to you. While you don't want your system to be too complicated, don't be afraid to give it some depth. Just don’t set up so many folders that you don’t know where to look.
Merge Related Files
Instead of having several different files labeled "photos", you can merge them into one central folder designated for photos that you have uploaded to your computer. You can take it a step further and create sub-folders if you want to categorize your files by the date or occasion. But eight out of 10 times when I work with clients on desktop organizing, I find photos sprinkled around the desktop.
Delete Old, Useless Files
After a while, files have a tendency to be forgotten and wind up doing nothing more than taking up space. Though normal data files don’t take up an overwhelming amount of space, eliminating these unused and old files frees up space and makes you system more organized.
A prime source for this sort of clutter is the Downloads folder. (I have touched on this before, and I’ll probably touch on it again! Check out “The Hidden Corners of Digital Clutter” for more suggestions in this area. ) It’s easy to forget about the installer for an application after it's done its job. So, it just sits there. If a file isn’t something you use or plan to store, don't let it hang around.
Stick to Your System
Even if you organize every single file on your computer to your liking, your computer will not stay organized for long. It's essential that you also sort new files as they come in. Otherwise, you will probably end up with the same mess on your hands that you had when you started. When you receive new files or programs, make sure they end up in their proper place in your filing system, immediately.
Digital storage provides us a great opportunity to organize our lives in the most uncomplicated and convenient ways imaginable. There are many tools built right into your operating system that you can use to organize the files on your computer. The trick is to organize them in a way that works for you, and then stick with it.