5 Tips for efficiently organizing your digital documents

Organizing digital files can be just as frustrating and confusing as organizing messy paper files. Without a realistic, manageable structure in place, it takes just one sloppy mouse click for an important document to get lost in the chaos. The good news? Meticulously classifying and arranging your digital documents isn’t as intimidating as it sounds, and the time-saving and stress-relief benefits are well worth the time and effort.

With a little planning and a lot of patience, you’ll be on your way to orderly digital document filing in no time. Take control of your hard drive today with these 5 tips for efficiently organizing your digital documents: 

1. Stick With My Documents. If your operating system didn’t come equipped with a default My Documents folder, create one and use it to store all of your documents, including scanned and word processing-generated documents, pictures and any other digital files (video, music, downloads, etc.) you’d like to access or backup–without having to turn your hard drive upside down. It’ll be much easier when the time comes to transfer your data to a new computer.

2. Create Sub Folders. Instead of stashing digital documents any which way, carefully create and specifically label top-level broad-category subfolders and store similar-subject documents in them. For example, invoices should go directly in the top-level invoice folder, which should then hold subsequent subfolders sorted by month and year for quicker access (and peace of mind at tax time). Try labelling individual folders for each person in your family. You can also sort digital documents by file type to group all PowerPoint presentations, Word documents, PDFs or Spreadsheets, for example.

3. De-clutter your desktop. Reserve your computer’s desktop for documents and files that require immediate action only. Trash, recycle or properly file them when you’re through with them. People often use their desktop as a long-term storage depository, which can weaken your computer’s overall performance over time.

4. Name document files as specifically as possible. For example, if you have several target audience-specific resumes on your hard drive, searching for one with the generically name “resume” is ineffective. A detailed, dated and memorably named digital document, like “invoice_ScanSnap_S1300i_140812” is much easier to remember and find in a pinch.

4. Continue improving on a good thing. Regularly tweaking and refining your new digital document filing structure only makes it stronger and more efficient. Don’t forget to routinely purge or archive files and folders you no longer use but still occasionally need, and rename and rearrange active files and folders as needed.

5. Send files to the cloud. If your hard drive gets too full, or you want to back it up off-site, upload some (or all) of your digital document files to GoogleDocs or Evernote’s secure document clouds. Instantly access your uploaded data online or via Smartphone anywhere, anytime.

There’s no limit to how specific you can get when organizing, or how many subfolders you can create, so be careful not to get carried away. Keep it simple, specific and fun.

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