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Getting "My Documents" under control

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  • Getting "My Documents" under control

    I am hoping that someone can give me a suggestion about how I can get the "My Documents" area of my PC under control. I have way too many folders and clutter.

    Are there 10 basic folders that could be used? For example for information, I could see one folder being called "Family" and then having sub-folders for my family. Any other ideas along this line? What are the 10 basic informational things in one's life?



  • #2
    Originally posted by Galen Nagen View Post
    I am hoping that someone can give me a suggestion about how I can get the "My Documents" area of my PC under control. I have way too many folders and clutter.
    I'm putting all my stuff related to active projects into folders for each project grouped by area of focus. I also have one big folder that contains General Reference Material and Someday/Maybe backup data that is just a big alphabetical grouping of file folders just as if I was making paper folders.

    So I have a top level folder in Documents (I'm on a mac so it's just called Documents) named "Keep a Comfortable House" Within that are folders for my current active projects for that AOF. One example is "Preserve Fresh Veges & Fruits for Winter" Within that are a couple of PDF documents that are references on how to can or preserve specific items.

    Another is a top level folder "General Reference" and within that are folders like "Farm Planning" "Equip. - iPod Touch 4th Gen" "Knitting Patterns" and so on.

    I have a large backlog of stuff that was filed willy nilly that is slowly being redone into this format.

    Keeping my GTD lists, my paper filing and my electronic filing in the same style makes it a lot easier to find stuff.


    • #3
      Thank you for your response. The top level files are really what I was looking for. I was hoping to make 10 folders the big ones and then have sub-folders for the rest. The alphabetical grouping of the folders is so elementary I didn't think of that.

      I think I have enough to go on to get a start on this mess.




      • #4
        A way to do it might be to move all of your stuff into one big folder, then just start creating and sorting your new folders as you need them, taking things out of the old folder if needs be, rather than spending an afternoon or three sorting out files that you may never use again.


        • #5
          Top-level I have 8 folders: an In box, Areas of Focus, Current Projects, Action Support, To Read, Someday, General Reference, Waiting for. I'm not quite sure why you're aiming for a specific number (10)??

          The In box is where I collect any snippets or files from download to process later.

          Current Projects - has sub-folders with corresponding project names. Once a project is completed, I archive documents off into PDF (often just one file if it isn't too big and cumbersome) delete the folder and file the PDF under the appropriate areas of focus. I'll also archive off any emails pertaining to the project into PDF and store here too.

          Areas of Focus stores completed projects, checklists, and any other information for each AOF.

          Action Support - anything I need to use for current actions. Once completed I move anything I might want to keep to Action Support Completed under General Reference.

          To Read is full of everything I need to read, mainly web-clips and PDFs

          Someday - self explanatory

          General Reference - a catch all for anything that doesn't fit into AOF

          Waiting for - mainly receipts for mail order items. This is just support material as waiting for items are tracked on my lists in Omni focus


          • #6
            "My Documents" is a reference system, not a reminder system

            I use a straight A-Z filing system under "My Documents", just like my paper filing cabinet. It's easy to decide then where something should go. There's a 60-second rule for paper filing; I'd dare to say that it drops to 30 seconds for computer filing. Keep it simple, don't over structure and, above all, don't use it as a reminder system. It's reference and support with the possible exception of "Read and Review".


            • #7
              Very helpful. I don't mind 8 files in the uppermost tierer. The fewer the better. I like the concept of A to Z. Would I make an A folder and put all things that seem like an A into it? Or just have a bunch of files that go by the alphabet with out the outer folder indicating A, B, C, etc.

              Stupid question but I am not sure.

              I think one of my problems is with General Reference. I pdf a ton of articles from the net and I have not had a proper home for them. I like that 50 second rule.

              Thanks for info.



              • #8
                Create one folder (mine is simply named "Reference").

                Install Google Desktop ( It will index all of your files on your computer.

                When you need a file use Google Desktop Search to find it.

                If you have active projects and feel better creating individual folders, then create them as needed.

                Move project folders to Reference folder when project is complete.


                • #9
                  I know this may sound overly simplistic, but what has always worked for me is to organize My Documents based on what's intuitive and makes sense to me. I don't know anyone that would organize their files the same way. For years my system has been to primarily organize everything by file type. So all PowerPoint files are together, all Word together, etc.. Photos are organized by trip or topic.

                  As far as GTD goes, the same filing best practices that David recommends still apply to digital filing:
                  Alpha sort (digital does this automatically)
                  Make it fast and fun



                  • #10
                    I like simplistic, even overly simplistic. I am wondering for those of you who file by alpha do you start a A folder and then put all A things in it or just file the A's together. Said another way, do you start a file labeled from A to Z or just file the things by alpha under one folder.

                    Examples: I have these folder's currently (and others):

                    Family. Then sub-folders for each member of the family.

                    Reference: Then I have GTD master file, Life Hacker, books, etc.

                    Business: Then I have sub-folders that relate to my business.

                    One of the problems is that I am trying to download the entire internet. I have a ton of articles that are of interest to me so I PDF them but don't know where to put them. I think I am "hoarding" internet things. I am not sure I will ever have time to read all of the things I have downloaded. I thought of using a GTD method for all of these articles but can't seem to get it to fit exactly. I can make a Maybe/Someday file, but I am inclined to use Important for things I really want to read soon and something for reading material that is in between Important and Maybe/Someday. I could put a vast majority of the articles in the Someday/Maybe folder.

                    Thanks. I hope this makes some sense. I really feel like the clutter on my computer is holding me back.



                    • #11
                      My general reference folder has several hundred documents. I just throw them in there with meaningful names and let Spotlight do the rest.

                      When I was on Windows 7 I had a similar arrangement and just used search. Computers are really good at searching and sorting, so I let them get on with it.

                      I do tend to keep current documents separate from archived though as I am using Dropbox, which will let me have access to my current stuff anywhere. Also I like to archive into PDF or RTF as I've had some "interesting" times trying to access old application specific files.


                      • #12
                        Folder structure with My Documents

                        A minor point, but I created a folder called 'GTD' at the same level as 'My Documents', not underneath it. So a user with an account called Joe would have:
                        joe/My Documents

                        My Documents is known to every software out there and so is the place where they dump all their own files and folders, making a big mess all over your GTD structure.

                        Now I know that anything that went into GTD was put there by me as part of a GTD operation. It stays pure. Under GTD, I have folders for Areas of Focus, Projects, Six Levels, Collector, Someday-Maybe, ...

                        Everything in My Documents is either work in process or to be collected or just computer gunk that does not belong in my nice clean GTD. It also acts as a nice inbox for getting started with GTD - it's all inbox.


                        • #13
                          The main folders I have on my work computer is Projects, Read Review and Reference.
                          In the Projects folder I have all the project folders, each of those also has an action folder and a delete folder. The action holds the action support stuff for that project. The delete folder is stuff I want to keep while the project is active, but definitely want to delete when the project is done and I'm ready to close it out. I'm trying to keep things tidy so closing out a project is easier.

                          I have started a Word file for reading material, I write the reference, and a sentence or two on what it is about (why I might be interested in reading it). Once I've read it I'll expand that into a paragraph on the key points I got out of the document.


                          • #14
                            My folder system has become flatter and more generic over time with bigger and broader categories. I have sub folders within each folder, and I keep everything sorted by reverse date so the currect and active items are always near the "top" of the stack.

                            Meetings and travel
                            People and projects


                            • #15
                              My Documents

                              I recommend against having more than two file folders deep. Level 1 is the main divisions (Inbox, etc.), within which you have subfolders (i.e. Level 2). Within the subfolders you have only files... not more folders. This makes for more efficient/effective retrieval.

                              Put an "_" at the beginning of the folder name for your main categories (Inbox, Project Support, etc.) so they stay at the top for quick reference. Then, staying in the main My Documents folders, create folders for the rest of your data. Name them based on whatever name first pops in your head. If you will need subfolders for that topic, then capitalize the folder name. Fill the topic folders with files -or- subfolders (not both), then fill any subfolders with only files (not more subfolders). So, you have a maximum of two levels of folders, and folders contain either only folders or only files.

                              My Documents could be set up like this:

                              _Lists and Checklists
                              _Project Support i.e. Project-specific
                              _Read & Review
                              (the following are sample topic folders)
                              chiropractic schools
                              Major Topic 1 (with A-Z subfolders)
                              Major Topic 2 (with A-Z subfolders)

                              Other filing schemes require more maintenance than the above A-Z. an A-Z sort by topic also facilitates skimming. Name the folder by the first name that occurs to you, as that will likely be the first one that occurs to you when looking for it.

                              Note that with only one screen full of well-chosen file folders (~50 of them), and a single level of subfolders (~50 per), you already have up to 2500 file folders... each of which can contain up to one screen full of file names (~50 per folder), and you have space for over 100,000 files without having to ever scroll down through screens of files or click more than 2 folders deep. All those clicks add up.

                              Choose filenames that tell you what you'll want to know when you go looking for it. "2008 household budget" beats 7R3WWgfje.PDF any day.
                              Last edited by JohnV474; 10-08-2010, 11:02 AM.