How to Organize Your Files the Smart Way
If you’re reading this on your office or home PC, take a quick look around at your actual, physical desktop. Is there a lot of clutter? Are there piles of paper, towering to-do lists, and till slips that need to be reconciled?
Now take a look at your computer desktop? Is it filled with icons for apps that you once downloaded and now never used? Have you forgotten what your desktop wallpaper even looks like? Do you not know where to start?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the above questions, you might have a problem organizing your files. And to put it in the nicest way possible, that problem is you. And that’s why we’re here for you: to look at some best practices when it comes to organizing your files the smart way.
With just a few smart decisions and some diligent application (wait, you mean there’s an application for that?), we can have you communicating with your computer in ways you never before even dreamed of. And that’s the bedrock of being productive, running a good business, keeping a tight ship – all that stuff that we need to do as we knuckle down to get the job done.
A popular Latin phrase ‘mens sana in corpore sano’ translates as ‘a healthy mind in a healthy body’. So, you need the body working for the mind to compute favorably. And that metaphor can easily extend to your computer.
So, we didn’t mean to hurt your feelings when we joked that ‘the problem is you’ earlier. We just want you to recognize that the type of organizational system you put in place is wholly dependent on you. Perhaps consider our advice below and develop a system you can implement, and then diligently apply. There’s no point in having a neatly colored downloads folder that is chock-a-block full of files slowing down your computer. Let’s get started on some valuable tips:
Cleaning Your Desktop
Let’s start with your desktop. Your computer’s desktop can be a visual reminder of the fast-paced chaos of life. It’s not uncommon for your desktop to be the most cluttered area of your computer. That beach island holiday photo is buried under the numerous applications, shortcuts, files, and icons that now dot the screen. Anxiety builds.
You cannot underestimate the therapeutic value of cleaning your desktop. Here we recommend just making a dent to start and slowly keep going. Consider removing unused icons and shortcuts. What remains can be categorized into folders. You can also download special wallpapers that have built-in categories for your data.
A clean desktop not only looks better, but it will allow you to find what you need quickly and easily.
Decide on an Organizational Framework
At this stage, you’ll be asking yourself, where do your files go? How do you house them so that you can find them when you need them? Do you put them in a folder called 2021? Do you have an external hard drive for all your business docs? Do all your photographs magically sync to the cloud?
We recommend one of three organizational methods to solve these dilemmas. Or perhaps if you’re feeling confident, you can go with a combination of these. It’s entirely up to you and also highly dependent on the type of work that you do. Consider the following:
- Date filing system. You have a folder for each year, and within that, there exists a folder for each month. It’s super easy to find files, and as most files are date-stamped, that also helps. This is practical if you’re organizing your photographs manually. But if you take pictures for a living and supply them to clients, then this system can get confusing when files straddle certain months or even years. A rule here might be that you leave them in the folder month that they were first created. A date-based system works well so long as you can remember in which month or year something happened.
- File type filing system. This doesn’t necessarily mean you group all your JPEGs and PDFs together, i.e., your computer file types. Instead, it could mean ‘Accounting’ handles all your Excel files, Presentations would house your PowerPoint files, and so on. How varied your work is will determine whether or not this is a sound system for you. Otherwise, Option 3 is probably your best option.
- Project filing system. A project can be anything from the name of a client to your gardening hobby research folder. A project setup can quickly become a dumping ground, though. Be careful of folders with names like ‘To Do’ and ‘Admin’ that end up housing valuable ideas you once had months ago that get swept under the proverbial carpet when you do that big Desktop spring clean.
A date-based system for long term storage is a smart idea, i.e., all your work from one year, at the end of the year, gets cataloged and put into a folder with the year’s name on it and stored on an external hard drive, freeing up space on your computer’s hard drive will give you some peace of mind and the feeling of a fresh start.
A project system is practical, just so long as there aren’t too many rabbit holes for you to lose your way. This is easiest for clients or employers, or people that you’re accountable to. A file type system can then work well under the umbrella of a project system as well.
Finding Harmony in Using Folders
Once you have your method in mind, your madness can have fun with aptly named folders.
You can create a root folder for all your documents and then nest folders below it for each type of document (documents, music, pictures, and so on). There are many ways to organize these folders, but be sure and adhere to logical names and ordering. It will make it easier to dig things up later.
At the same time, be careful how deep you nest these folders. After a while, things can get convoluted and result in trading one problem for another. This is where having a timestamp system can help.
Only Keep What You Need
You’ll tend to accumulate a lot of data over time. That’s okay if it’s all being put to good use, but this typically isn’t the case. You can help to organize your files by removing items that are simply taking up space.
You might be surprised at how many files seem to replicate over time.
Documents that end up being copied instead of moved can start to add up. Stay in the habit of moving (or cut and paste) versus copying.
It’s also possible that you created duplicates on purpose for backup purposes. While this may seem like a good idea, there are better ways to accomplish this.
For one, you can use the built-in Windows backup methods – File History or System Image Backup. These tools can do more than just back up certain files. Your entire system can also be protected. There are plenty of third-party software options as well.
It’s better to remove something you’re not using. Not only does this clean up some of the clutter, but it can also free up resources. Use the Apps & Features utility to accomplish this.
Delete Other Unnecessary Files
Old installation packages and files that were downloaded can be removed. Even if you might need to reinstall an application someday, it’s likely there will be an updated version of it you can obtain.
The operating system and other applications create temporary files that can cause performance issues over time.
In Windows 10, you can clean up system files by finding (using the search box on the taskbar) and clicking on the disk cleanup utility. You can choose the desired drive and then select multiple types of files to purge.
On older versions of Windows, you can right-click the drive, choose Properties and then select Disk Cleanup.
Use External Devices and Services
For those items that you want to keep but don’t necessarily want to take up space (or become an eyesore), you may want to transfer them to an external source.
External hard drives or thumb drives can be effective repositories for items not used often. Most of these are USB devices and can be quickly plugged in for access.
There are many services offered for cloud storage – OneDrive, Dropbox, and Google Drive, to name a few.
The strength of this approach is that you get to remove items from your computer while still having access to them – from anywhere or any device. The downside is that you need to be in a WiFi zone or have a reliable signal to access the cloud. If you find yourself in the woods without a signal trying to pitch your hotshot business idea to a potential investor, you will be in trouble.
At the time of writing, Windows 11 is a free upgrade for all Windows 10 Users. However, the minimum requirements for Windows 11 are:
- 64-bit processor
- 1GHz dual-core CPU
- 64GB storage
- 4GB RAM
- UEFI, Secure Boot, and TPM 2.0
- DirectX 12 compatible graphics/WDDM 2.x
This is a huge jump in RAM (up from 4GB for Windows 10), TPM 2.0 (up from 1.2), and the 64-bit processor (up from 32-bit). What this means is that while the new operating system may be free to download, your computer might not have the hardware capacity to run it.
This may force some existing Windows 10 users to hold back on upgrading to Windows 11 – at least until the hype has died down and we know how good the operating system is.
So there you go, we hope these tips and insights help you to organize your folders in a smart way. Happy organizing!