Organize Your Folders to Optimize Efficiency

by: Aldene Fredenburg

Files proliferate quickly on personal computers and, without a bit of planning, users can end up hunting through a long list of miscellaneous files with names that seemed sensible when they were created, but now appear very mysterious.

Windows automatically saves new text files in My Documents and graphics files in My Pictures unless you tell it differently- great for knowing where your files land, but not so great when it comes time to find them again. A little planning will help you create an easy to use organizational system for all your documents.

Using nested folders is an easy way to organize your documents. Do you use your computer for both personal and business projects? Think about creating a separate folder for "Personal" and "Business" documents. Within these folders, divide into additional categories.

In the "Personal" folder, you may find a mishmash of letters to friends and family, letters to the editor of your local newspaper, complaints to companies about unsatisfactory products, downloaded recipes and website pages about a variety of topics, and so on. A "Correspondence" folder could be divided into more folders labeled "Friends and Family" and "Business Correspondence"; the "Friends and Family" folder could be further subdivided into folders for each individual, assuming you correspond regularly; you could add a "Miscellaneous" folder for those you correspond with infrequently. If you communicate via email, you could also copy and paste or download your own emails and the responses you receive, particularly where the letters contain valuable information. Your "Friends and Family" folder may also be a good place to store personal photos.

Take a good look at the website downloads and miscellaneous files you've gathered. Do you have a lot of recipes, or information about vintage cars or alternative energy resources? Create broad categories, and then subdivide; "Alternative Energy Resources" suggests several subcategories: "Wind", "Solar", "Biodiesel", etc.

On the business end, you may have correspondence, project notes, background materials, finished and in-progress writings, and a variety of financial files. A number of organizational options present themselves; in terms of financial files, do you want to group them all together in a single folder and subdivide as necessary? Or do you want to keep the financial files with the corresponding project files?

Say you do freelance work for several companies, and have a variety of files for each company. One method of organizing is to create a "Freelance" folder, then a folder for each client; subdivide each of these into "General Information", "Projects", "Invoices", "Correspondence", and so on. The "Invoices" folder for each client could be subdivided again by year, and contain all invoices you've sent the client. "Projects" folders could be subdivided into "New Projects", "Work in Progress", "Done but not Sent" (for files you need to submit), and "Sent". This not only helps you saves finished files, but allows you to organize your work as you do it.

In the "Freelance" folder, you may also want to provide a "Financial Summary" folder containing one or several files which summarize the financial information for all clients.

While you're planning your file organization, also give some thought to how to name your files. It helps to create a systematic way of naming files. Invoices, for instance, could include "Invoice" plus the name of your client, the project, and the date submitted: "Invoice Harvard Stephen Crane 10-20-2005". Correspondence about the project could be labeled "Correspondence Harvard Stephen Crane 10-20-2005". It's easy enough to rename existing files to fit into your new organization plan; in Windows, simply right-click on the file's icon, scroll down to "Rename", left-click, then type in the new name.

Don't forget to back up your files! Burn a CD to save your information and free up your hard drive in the process. And apply the same type of planning with your backup files as you do on your hard drive. A little organization can make your life on the computer a whole lot easier.