“For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned.” – Benjamin Franklin
When was the last time you spent time organising the files on your computer? Meagan Francis host of the “Mom Hour” podcast describes organising as a practice and not a project, and that’s an excellent way of putting it.
As a practitioner, it is smart to make it a habit to organise your files whenever you can. Nowadays, it’s easier to ignore putting your digital files where they’re supposed to be. You might think that “Well, I know they’re in the My Documents folder, anyway!” However, once you start searching for a specific file, that’s when you realise how cluttered and unorganised your files might be.
So if you’ve been putting up this task or procrastinating, it’s time to shift your mindset. The sooner you get the work done, the smoother your workflow will be. It will also make you more productive and time-efficient. Below are some helpful and doable tips to help you organise files in your computer.
1. Establish Your Goals
Before taking action, ask yourself these questions:
- Why do you want to organise your files?
- What do you think is a good system that works for you?
- What are the issues you have with disorganised files and how can you solve those issues?
- How will you and your business improve?
Many put off the task thinking they’ll spend too much time and that time is better spent working. What many do not realise is that organising is an investment. You may allot hours and hours to organising now, yet, you will see the fruits of your labour instantly.
Your bad experience with a poor filing system will be your primary motivation in organising your files. During those times when you need to pull up a file and you spend 30 minutes looking for it and feeling anxious, is this something you want to happen again and again?
Establish your goals. You want your files to be easily searchable and accessible. When you share files with your staff, they can also benefit from that, especially when you’re on leave or someone else is out. They can pull up any file with ease. You’d also want your folders to be as specific as possible. This removes any confusion of where to put your files. Filenames have to be specific, too, so you can search for them quickly without going through each folder.
2. Create Folders and Sub-Folders
It isn’t wise to keep files on your desktop. Some people have their desktop as the main location where documents are saved and downloads are stored. If you’re quick to organise, it shouldn’t be a problem. However, if you’re not, your desktop can become cluttered really quick. Bear in mind that your desktop greets you the moment you open your computer. A cluttered and messy desktop isn’t a refreshing sight to see.
Instead, pick a folder where you can store your files. Perhaps the Document folder can house all your documents. Now in this main folder, you can create sub-folders. You can name these sub-folders with general terms like Clients, Client Notes, Invoices, and Resources. After that, that’s when you get into specifics.
For instance, you can create sub-folders inside the Invoices folder and name them “Paid,” “Pending,” and “Unpaid.” Within these folders, you can still become more specific by segregating the invoices per month. Example: Invoices > Paid > August 2020. This will undoubtedly help you locate invoices faster.
3. Be Specific with File Names
When it comes to creating file names, there are two important things to remember. The first is to be specific and the second is to follow a specific format.
For example, in the Clients folder, you’ll want to type the names of your clients instead of simply writing Client 1, Client 2, and so on. Use their names and decide how you want to write them. Do you prefer the file name to be “Anderson_Nick” or “Nick_Anderson.” Use this across all your files. Remember that your computer can automatically alphabetise your list. Also, the underscore symbol is preferred for uniformity. Besides, other special characters like /\?!:”’ are not allowed on file names.
One of the main benefits of using specific file names is that you don’t have to go through the folders to find a file. Both MAC and Windows have search features that will allow you to search for a file using a word. So if you’re looking for a client, you can just type his first name or surname and you can retrieve the file in seconds. That won’t be possible if you don’t have specific file names.
4. Organise Them Immediately
Why save or download files in different folders when you can file them immediately before saving or downloading? Your computer will show a prompt when you click “Save As,” this is where you can choose the specific folder to save the file. It is the same prompt where you can change the file name.
Keep FAYG (File As You Go) in mind and if you have to, put a Post-It on your computer so you’re always reminded. Think about it, if you file them correctly in the first place, you wouldn’t have to spend time re-organising your files later on.
5. Use Apps and Services
If you’re done with the steps above, now it’s time to seek third-party help. The first is to make sure you have a back-up for all your files. Your computer can break down at any time and once those files are lost, they may be gone forever. You can’t be complacent.
One way of creating back-ups is to store them on an external hard drive. Another way is to use cloud-based services like Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud Drive, or One Drive. In this step, your computer can automatically sync with the cloud-database in real-time so you will always have copies of your files.
The other benefit of using cloud-based drives is you can easily access your files wherever you are if you need to. This goes the same for your staff.
Apart from cloud storage, you will also benefit from using automated organisation apps like Hazel for Mac. Hazel can automatically move files around and even delete irrelevant files for you. With Hazel, you will create a set of rules for it to follow. (1) For example, if the file name has “invoice,” move it to the Invoice folder. It’s quite a handy app to have.
- Separate Personal and Business Files
It would be great to have a separate computer for your personal and business files. However, if you’re using only one, the best way to do that is to create two separate accounts on your computer. This helps prevent mix-up of files and will make it easier for you to organise and stay organised, too.
- Make Updating a Habit
An organised computer is awesome. However, it won’t stay that way forever. You have to cull and go through files from time-to-time and see which files are still actively used or not. You can make a schedule for this. Be careful about deleting business files. If you’re unsure if you’ll need them in the future, keep them in an “Inactive” folder so you can still access them someday if needed.
Why waste time and energy in going through disorganised folders when you can find a file after two to five mouse clicks. Practitioners can focus on their work instead of finding one file after another.
TheraSmart’s practice management system helps practitioners organise resource files with ease and convenience. It has a Resource Library Function where you can keep all your resources in one location and even share it with your clients in just a click. Over time, you can build up a library of your resources where you can easily find what you need in no-time.
Time to get cracking and organising! Make file organisation a practice, you won’t regret it.