Digital Hygiene Series: Strategies for Organizing Your Digital Files
If you have any experience working with a horribly messy file cabinet room, you know how important it is to practice good hygiene when storing documents and other files. In this second article of our Digital Hygiene series, we’ll review five strategies for effective document and file storage to help you keep your digital file room clean. Taking the time to organize your digital documents and folders will go a long way in helping you be more efficient by making it much easier to find the files you need.
1. Use Cloud Storage
Using cloud storage puts your data in a place that is highly accessible to you and protected by a layer of backup. The most common services are Google, Dropbox, and KiteTech’s favorite, Microsoft’s OneDrive and Sharepoint. The important thing is not which service you are using, but that you are using one of the services, and using it properly. It is best to ensure that every single file you work with is saved on cloud storage, and that you are either using file sync or accessing the files directly in the web browser to work with them. This ensures that all your files are protected, and you avoid issues with file sync conflicts and duplicates.
2. Archive Unused Files
Data sets grow out of control if they are never cleaned out, so it is good practice to clean out unused files from your storage as soon as they become obsolete, or you don’t plan to work with them anymore. Doing this well requires regular auditing because it is easy to forget and ignore, and before you know it your useful data is buried among countless items you never even use. But archiving your data does not need to mean completely getting rid of it, it just means moving it out of the way of your useful data. Think about your data in two different buckets, your working data set which contains all the data you currently use, and your archive which is just long-term storage for files you no longer use. Keep in mind it is important to keep your archive just as well-organized as your working data set.
3. Archive Large Files
Without proper management, data storage can grow very large very quickly. To combat this, audit your files regularly for particularly large files that you don’t need. You can either use the Size fields available in your Windows Explorer or Finder window, or else use a tool like TreeSize to help you find the files and folders taking up the most space. Reducing the size of your working data set will help you reduce your download times, avoid hitting storage limits based on the service you use, or avoid paying more for storage space you don’t need.
4. Use Folder/File Naming Conventions
You want your files to be easy for you to browse. I advise using naming conventions to keep your files and folders standardized. When you are looking at a set of data that has consistency in its naming, you tend to have an easier time finding what you are looking for. Some examples of naming conventions you could use are sequential patterns (maybe you use a consistent year-month-title format), use of special characters (like hyphens or underscores for formatting), and consistent capitalization (maybe you capitalize all the letters in acronyms or abbreviations, or you use camel case for phrases like “MyFileName”). If I were employing these naming conventions when storing this article, it would be named “2022-July-DigitalHygiene.docx”. Of course, it is important to use the same naming conventions across all your files to ensure the best searchability.
5. Serialize File Names
Another way to use your file and folder names to make your data easy to navigate is to use serialization. This is when you use letters and numbers to add prefixes or suffixes to your file names so that they sort in a particular order alphabetically. This method is commonly used when many of the same kind of files are saved together and need to have distinct names. Some examples include adding a number to the end of a file name (“JulyArticle01”, “JulyArticle02”, “JulyArticle03”, etc.) or adding the date (“20220701_Article”, “20220714_Article”, “20220716_Article”, etc.). Use file name serialization in as many places as necessary in your data to make your data as easy to navigate as possible.
By following these five strategies, you’ll be more successful at keeping all your documents organized and easily accessible. To learn more about virtual organization and best practices, stay tuned for our next article in our digital hygiene series: Decluttering Your Inbox for Greater Productivity.