Organizing, as you probably know, can be applied to computer data. I strongly suggest using your computer as an organizing tool for these reasons:
1) Storing documents on your computer (or in the cloud) greatly reduces the amount of paper you need to hold on to, and
2) Knowing where to find those documents is guaranteed to save you time. Yes, you could search for a file but will you remember the name of the document six months after you created it?
3) Organizing data may prompt you to think more strategically about your business or personal goals and roadmaps – looking at data as parcels of information can spark thinking about that info in different ways.
How are your digital files organized? If you’re answer is “they’re not” or “up to a point” then read on, McDuff!
Here’s how to organize your digital files:
- Start with pen and paper, not your computer.
- Think of your hard drive as a filing cabinet. Picture pulling out a drawer and seeing how the hanging files are labeled as you create your computer’s ‘filing cabinet’.
- First make a list of the main categories of your documents, e.g. Financial & Legal, Marketing, Taxes, Personal.
- Now create sub-categories within each main category, e.g. Marketing Files could have these: Social Media, Networking, Business Development; Personal Files could have these sub-categories: Medical Insurance, Recipes, Family.
- If you need to, make a neater copy of your “filing cabinet map” so that you can easily see the main categories and their sub-categories.
- Now you can go back to your computer! Choose the first main category you want to organize – it could be a simple one, to get you comfortable with the set-up, or it could be a really messy one that you just want to get your hands on and sort out once and for all.
- Let’s say you choose “Marketing”. Create a new folder for it. Put a + sign at the front so that you know this is a new folder. In this case, the folder name would be “+Marketing”. DO NOT start transferring info into this folder yet – there’s more to do.
- Now within that folder, create sub-folders using your hand-drawn map as a guide. So underneath +Marketing could be “Social Media”, “Networking”, “Business Dev’t”.
- And, of course, you can further sub-categorize, e.g. within “Social Media” would be FaceBook, Instagram, etc.
- NOW you can transfer files over from your existing folders.
- Continue working through the main categories, one at a time. When you’ve completed the transfer of documents, you can delete the old folders.
- Unless you have just a small number of documents, don’t expect to finish the project in one sitting.
My clients know they can dedicate a session with me – either onsite or remotely – to organizing their computer data. However, if you are not sure about managing and organizing files, email, online calendars or contacts, seek out someone who can show you the things you specifically want to learn. Start with people you know or the professionals they recommend. For example, I haven’t used her technology training services myself, but I’ve heard good things about Nicole Lux-Ritchie at LuxCentric.com.
The holidays could be the perfect time to begin this organizing project – yes, you’ll be busy with activities, but hopefully you’ll also have a bit more down-time than normal.
Whenever you choose to do it, congratulations for making the commitment to organize your data! When the project is finished, take a moment to notice how you feel. I’d love to hear the result – post a comment!