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Organize Your Computer Files and Folders

There are many benefits to living a paperless lifestyle at home and at work. First off, we’re saving trees and thus the environment. In addition, a study conducted by AIIM, a global community of information professionals, found productivity gains when paper-based systems were removed from the business process.

According to a Market Wire press release about the study, AIIM reported that response times for employees working in the field and in home offices were faster and customer service improved when digitized content replaced paper.

When I go to clean off my desk at home, there’s hardly any paper to file or recycle. I’m in email contact with both my kids’ schools, we utilize online bill paying, I usually compose my articles directly on the computer instead of handwriting. I rarely print anything, and a majority of my research is bookmarked on a web browser. I’m down to receipts, some notebooks, a calendar and fliers, that’s about it in terms of paper.

While I’m on the journey to being paper-free, I noticed something recently. Just as a physical document can get buried under a mound of paper on your desk or forgotten somewhere in a file folder, you can lose track of stuff in your computer too. I recently found several draft articles that were near completion, but forgotten about in my Life Coaching folder in Microsoft Word. It reminded me of when I used to find two or three pages of handwritten notes on my desk five years ago. I call these finds buried treasure.

I clean my desk regularly, but not my computer. Who knows what I might find if I organize.

Below are a few tips for organizing your computer. I have a PC, so the advice is Windows based.

Know the difference between a “file” and a “folder.” Before you can effectively organize your computer, you must understand the language. According to PC World.com, “a file is any individual item on your PC, be it a photo, a Word document, a Quicken database, or an e-mail attachment (which may actually consist of multiple files)…Folders are containers for these files.”

After more than 20 years of working with a PC, I have to admit I’ve used these terms incorrectly. I’ve been guilty of looking for what I referred to as a “document” in a “file.” When what I was actually doing was looking for a Word document “file” in a “folder.”

Create sub-folders. Do you save everything on your desktop? All of the articles I’ve read about organizing your computer suggest creating sub-folders. “Create as many levels of sub-folders as you need. Don’t be scared to do so,” suggests an article called “Zen and the Art of File and Folder Organization” on How-to Geek.com.

“Every time you notice an opportunity to group a set of related files into a sub-folder, do so. Examples might include: All the MP3s from one music CD, all the photos from one holiday, or all the documents from one client.”

Separate work in progress from completed work. I lost track of those near complete articles in my Life Coaching folder because I left already posted articles in the same folder as those I was still drafting. The folder is huge.

The Microsoft at Work website says that in order to keep Document folders from becoming too unmanageable, use them only for files you're actively working on. “As a result, you can reduce the number of files you need to search through and the amount of data you need to back up,” states the site. “Every month or so, move the files you're no longer working on to a different folder or location, such as a folder on your desktop, a special archive folder, a flash drive, an external hard disk drive, or even a CD.”

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Content copyright © 2013 by Leah Mullen. All rights reserved.
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