How much time is wasted sifting through files to find what you need to work on/with or send to someone? Not only does it slow you down, but it also slows your computer down. Conquer your stress by engaging in some digital declutter. Make it a yearly practice for sure, but also set aside a few minutes each week to tidy up so you can see the productivity benefits right away!
Update your File Organization
One of the biggest wasters of time, and the most easily fixed, is your file organization. If you find you are constantly hunting for a certain file, and using brain power to try and remember where you put it, it may be time to revisit your organization system.
There is no “right” or “wrong” way to file things, so long as your system works for you. Starting with one file for everything (such as “My Documents”) is a great place to begin. Then try nesting your files, with larger topics first and then years, clients, projects, etc. inside. Keep it simple though, you want to be able to locate the files quickly, and not go through twenty nesting stages to get it. Your organization system can evolve with you, but be consistent so you don’t just end up confusing yourself!
While you are reorganizing, purge your folders, starting with the biggest one. Get rid of old files you don’t need anymore. Don’t be a packrat! Make sure you aren’t keeping around duplicate files, or previous versions of a finished project.
Get into the habit of sitting down once a week to put everything in its place. Clear out your downloads folder and your desktop clutter. You’ll be on your way to a stress-free file management system in no time!
Name your files:
Use a consistent standard, whatever it may be, that works for you. Be descriptive and specific, so you can understand what the file is without having to open it. Many people chose to start with the date, then use the broader category and then project name, with underscores between each, such as:
You could also add your business acronym and file version, especially if you are sending it on to anyone else. Remember that file names shouldn’t be too long, and most special characters should be avoided. Also avoid using spaces. Instead use underscores, dashes, or camel case (each letter of each word is capitalized for ease of reading).
Also remember that if you are uploading images to your website, they should have SEO optimized file names!
Weed out the E-mail
Email clutter equals brain clutter. Each email symbolizes a taxing demand on you from another person, no matter if the only thing required is a simply “ok” reply. Many of the best email management techniques recommend that you set a certain time each day to sit down and give your email your attention. Don’t let it be a constant interruption during the day! When you are focused on your inbox, be determined to take action. Use descriptive subject headings, respond right away, file messages with specific labels and folders, and use a program like Boomerang to schedule an email to leave your inbox and come back at a later time and date if needed.
Of course, deleting is going to be the best way to declutter. Get rid of your archives that are older than 2 years old! Also, unsubscribe to all of the newsletters that you don’t read.
Control the Information Overload
Do you find yourself stashing away articles that you want to find time to read someday? It’s all too easy to do so, between browser bookmarks, Evernote clippings, and the “Saved” features in our RSS readers and even Facebook! Give yourself time each week (or day) to read these articles you’ve kept and keep what you are stashing down to a minimum. In addition, you may want to decrease your subscriptions to only the top 10 that you can make time to keep up with.
And a final reminder: Backup! Backup! Backup!
How often do you create a backup of your computer? And do you store this backup in a safe location away from your computer? You may want to consider keeping files in cloud storage (such as Dropbox) to not only give you peace of mind that your files are safe and secure, but to also allow yourself access over any computer or tablet.