How to Organize Digital Files
In this digital (and often paperless) age, everything is on our computer and/or devices. This can cause clutter and often make it difficult to find the items you need, when you need them.
Look at your digital files like you would paper ones. You can’t just toss them into a box or a drawer and expect to find them when you need to. You have to organize them in some way, so you can find them. The same holds true for digital files. There are things you can to do organize your files so you an actually find them!
1. Set up File Folders
The one thing you should do is first create a folder for the current year (or prior year if you are cleaning up old files). Just call it that — 2015 Files (or something similar). Right away, you know that if you are looking for a photo or document for a select year, you know which file to head to.
Within that main folder, you will want to create additional folders, called sub-folders. These can be set up for the various items you may have. The three recommended would be: Photos, Documents, Finances. Now, you’ve got a quick way to organize those files under each of these categories – putting you one more step ahead to find files.
You can now move your photos, files and other electronic documents into these sub-folders and they are easily organized, helping you find them at the moment you need to. Of course, you can go even further if you want to get SUPER- organized!!!
For many, one folder filled with ALL of those 2015 photos may be overwhelming. What you can do is create more files under each sub-folder. You can name them what you need in order to find them. For example, under photos you could do folders such as Child’s Name, Birthdays, Holidays, Graduation, etc. This is the best way to organize photos so you can track down that photo from Christmas 2014 when you need to!
Here is a quick chart to show how your file system could look:
2. Naming Files
Simply putting files into your folders may still not be the most efficient method. Photos are usually OK when just filed in a sub-folder, however, documents and receipts may not be. Give those file names keywords – perhaps including the date when necessary.
For instance, if you have a receipt for the new refrigerator you purchase in April, you could name the file something like this:
Then, when you are looking for the receipt in your receipts or document folder, you can find it more easily. Find a naming system that works for you and use it consistently.
3. Going Paperless
With so much paper, scanning and keeping items digitally can be a much more efficient method to saving your documents. Rather than having a shoebox filled with receipts and papers for the current year, you can scan and add them to your digital files.
Many printers have a scanning option, so you could do this and scan in each document. Just make sure that as each one is scanned you rename the file appropriately (see above) and then put into the correct sub-folder which you have created.
If you want to find another method to do this, you may want to look into a Neat Scanner. These are expensive, but they sure are pretty awesome! The desktop scanner is more than $300, however you can purchase a handheld wand scanner instead for around $130 – $180. This is the method we use and it works perfectly!!!
4. Storing/Backing Up Files
Let’s face it, you don’t want to keep every file on your computer or device. First of all, that is not smart in the instance of a crash, but also for security. It is actually best to have two or three storage methods. I’ve actually had hard drives crash, so I’m big on backing up your files — and often!
External Hardrive. This is a small device which connects to your computer. You can then manually back up the files you want onto the drive. There are several options out there but you can find all sorts of different devices (at varying price points) on Amazon. This method is great to do monthly (or even weekly) backups at home.
Online storage system. Many people use Dropbox to store files. This is a great option as you can actually keep these files in your Dropbox folder so that when you make changes, they will sync for you. The only thing with this option is that it only stores the files you have in Dropbox, rather than all of the files on your computer.
There are services which provide automated backup services (I love it when things just work for me and I don’t have to thing about it. Carbonite is one of these companies. You simply connect it to your computer and then, it will back up all files at select times (as you determined). What I love about this method is that you can easily restore any file if you need to for any reason. It is also not kept in your home, so if you lose it due to fire or natural disaster, your files are still available to you. This is a pay service, but if you ever lose your computer, even once, this will certainly more than pay for itself.
USB Drives. If you do not have very many files to store, you can purchase USB flash drives instead. These are a quick way to back up select files onto a drive. I actually do like these for some of your very important documents (such as copies of your Driver’s License, Social Security Cards, etc). Then, keep it in a bank vault or with a family member — away from your home — so if you need to leave or need access, they can get it to you right away.
Computer internal backup. Most computers have a way for you to complete backups onto your hard drive. This can also be helpful in case you need to restore your system to an earlier date in time – without losing any files. This varies based upon your operating system, so you will need to conduct research to see how to do this based upon what you currently use.
Cloud backups. This is common with most devices. You can actually store your information “in the cloud” automatically. You do have to pay for additional storage, but it can be a great way to ensure that what you do on your device is backed up in the case of a damaged (or even lost device). It is also very helpful if you ever upgrade as the cloud can download your data directly to your new device. Check with your provider regarding additional costs.
5. Delete Old Files
It is tempting to save every. single. file. There is not need. There are times when you end up with duplicates of the same one, so just permanently delete those files.
The same holds true with pictures. As a parent, I know how difficult it is to hit the delete button, but if you have 10 of the same pose and only 4 are actually worth saving, then those additional 6 files really are not anything you will ever want to use anyhow. Delete them and keep only those you really want to save.
Keeping your digital files is important so that you can stay organized and not spend hours searching for the file you may need!