Organizing Computer Files: A Step-by-Step Plan

source: pigstubs
source: pigstubs

I hope you’ve already taken time this week to purge your digital files and rename any with ambiguous titles. If not, I encourage you to go back and do that before moving on to the next step of setting up a computer file system.

There are a couple benefits to tackling this project in two phases:

  • As you go through and purge and rename your files, you’ll be re-familiarizing yourself with the types of files you have so that you’ll have a basic idea of what main categories and subcategories you need to set up when you get to that step.
  • It can be overwhelming to sort through hundreds of files! It’s easier to do it in two phases because you give yourself a natural stopping point instead of just getting tired and stopping, which means you’ll be more motivated and likely to come back and finish the project. Basically, it’s a head game.

Getting Started

Once you’re ready to start setting up a file system, consider the main categories of information you have stored on your computer. For example, your files may be divided between Home/Personal and Business or maybe Homeschooling and Household Management. If you serve on any school, church or community committees, you might have a separate category for those files as well. The key is to choose broad categories at this point and separate files that really don’t have much to do with each other.

Setting Up Subcategories

Within each category, begin setting up subcategories that make sense. A benefit of computer files versus paper files is that you can create virtually limitless numbers of folders and sublevels. However, you obviously want to be careful not to go overboard, as having too many folders will make it harder to find the files you’re looking for. If a folder only has one or two files within it, think about whether it makes more sense to combine it with another folder in a broader subcategory.

You’ll also want to think about a system that makes the most sense for your files. For example, I organize all of my pictures in folders labeled with the Month and Year. For me, it’s a system that works because so many of my pictures are just taken as we go about our normal day. However, someone else may choose to create folders based on events or the people in the picture. There is no right or wrong system! (We’ll talk more about organizing photos another day because it really is a subject unto itself.)

Tweaking Your System

Whether you’re setting up a system for your files for the first time or you already have one in place, remember that all organizational systems need to be tweaked and adjusted over time. Not only will you have a better idea of what works and what doesn’t as you use the system, but you’re needs will also change over time. Taking a few minutes once a month or so (perhaps when you backup your files) to refine your system will ultimately make it more useful.

If you already have a system in place, how do you organize your files? If not, what’s stopping you from organizing your files?

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