Save your sanity by keeping files straight from the start.
If you’ve ever seen the comedy “Zoolander,” you may remember the hysterical scene where the not-so-bright title character played by Ben Stiller is told to search for some hard drive files “in the computer.” Zoolander goes into a rage when he can’t open the computer and shatters it open instead.
You may have felt like doing the same thing with your own computer at a time when you couldn’t find an important file you knew you had but can’t locate. Today for Clean Out Your Computer Day, I’ve gathered some easy-to-use, expert tips for decluttering your computer files and getting them organized so you can stop computer rage before it starts.
1. Subdivide your folders
One of the most important steps you can take to organizing your computer’s files is creating subdivisions within folders. In her article, “Where Did I Save That Document?” productivity expert Laura Stack suggests using subdivision to help with organization.
“If every folder were labeled ‘My Documents,’ you wouldn’t find anything,” she notes. Instead, consider making more folders based on type of work or the date it was created. “Microsoft automatically sets up a folder titled ‘My Documents,’ where you can save your documents. If you save EVERYTHING under this directory, you will never be able to find what you need,” writes Stack. Make sure you take control of where your files and work go.
2. Remove old files
Do you have a file — whether it be a spreadsheet or PowerPoint presentation — you use a couple times a week? You should probably keep those around on your Desktop, but almost everything else should go somewhere else.
N2 Publishing CTO Jim Hall advises people delete or move files off their desktop if they’re not in use. “Move files you don’t use often to an external hard drive or cloud storage (whatever you trust and are comfortable with). And don’t be afraid to delete files you won’t ever use again. Clear out your photos and store them on an external drive or cloud, too.”
3. Think about how you want to search
Before you save something new, remember to first ask yourself “how will I search for this in the future?” Take for instance, the example of searching for old insurance files from Stack’s article.
“You can’t remember, ‘Did I call that “automobile” insurance, or “car” insurance, or “Bronco” insurance?’ You would logically want to go to ONE place in your files to find all information related to insurance. So a simple solution is to put the noun first, such as ‘Insurance, Auto;’ ‘Insurance, Homeowners;’ ‘Insurance, Medical.’” By placing the noun first in the file name you reduce time spent searching and stressing.
4. Invent a file-naming system
Perhaps the best way to prevent all future mishaps is create a simple file-naming system that incorporates both a date and a useful description. Your files don’t have to be in a code that would make the pros at NASA proud, just use short, clear names for your files, advises Hall. “And be consistent with the style or format you use.”
Computers are powerful productivity machines, but like anything else, they must be organized from time to time to remain dependable and easy to use. Take these small steps and you can prevent plenty of headaches in the future.