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In a mess about A-Z organisation on my computer

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  • In a mess about A-Z organisation on my computer

    Hello all,

    I organised all my physical files in alphabetical order and keep a little guide about what things are under what (for example does gas bill go under G or under H for house or under B for bills etc)

    Is there a simpler way do do this on my computer as I have so many more files for so many more things - is it just personal preference as to how you decide file things....for example in my case amongst other things I manage some rental properties so I could have a file name houses with sub files for each property or I could have a file for each house under the letter for the name of the house....what is the best way? Is there a best way as it is driving me nuts and then when I come to look at the file I can't remember where it is an have to go hunting..ok it will only be in one of two or three places so I guess it's not so bad. Any thoughts appreicated

  • #2
    I use a rule of thumb that if I can find it in less than 60 seconds, it is filed properly. Don't let the pursuit of perfection in your system distract you from getting important things done.

    On a computer, the search tools make finding files much easier, and then it matters less which folder you put it in. Some people choose to file everything in one folder and rely on the search tools to find everything. I don't, but this is really a personal preference.

    When deciding which folder to file something in, I ask myself where will I think of first? Whatever pops into my head becomes the location. In the future, when I am looking for something, most likely the same first location will pop into my head then, too.

    Just as important is the file name. I often receive files with non-helpful names, like "screenshot 2012-01-13," or "A542396." There is no way I will remember what this is when I am searching for it in the future. I rename to make the searching easier.


    • #3
      It is a matter of personal preference but I try to stick to the A-Z file system on my computer. Start by deciding a "root" location for your filing system. It can be "My Documents" or any location you prefer; just make sure you can get there easily. Then, as files are added to the system I create a folder by theme, topic person or project and add the file to the folder; just like a paper system.

      If you have files that could belong in multiple locations you can store a file in one folder and create shortcuts to it in others; a nice cross-referencing technique.

      Sometimes capabilities can turn into hazards. Just because you can nest folders within each other doesn't mean that you should. I have a few nested folders where they make sense, but I usually don't do more than 1-2 layers deep.

      Good luck.


      • #4
        Always ask yourself - where would I think to look first?
        For me I tend to think of the general word first eg bills and rental properties, then break down into smaller divisions.
        However for some areas I find it better to have special storage separate to the general reference, eg I have a hardcopy folder for all bills and account statements next to my inbox to make budgeting and bill paying quicker and easier. Similarly I have a recipe box on my desk to make meal planning easy.


        • #5
          I do electronic filing of project materials by area of focus. It's just easier to look at shorter directory listings to find what I want.


          • #6
            Ditto on using my areas of focus and responsibility. I start at the highest level where I have:

            Spirit & Service

            Instead of having "Work" at this high level I break down that category by areas of focus & responsibility even at this first level of folders. So I do:

            <company abbreviation> Client Projects
            <company abbreviation> Business Development
            <company abbreviation> People
            <company abbreviation> Operations
            Public Speaking Projects

            ... and so forth

            I have 2 folder levels maximum. And it seems to work for me. I also rename files when I save them so once I look into a folder I don't have a major problem finding the file.

            The biggest lesson I've learnt with the file structure is to give yourself time to get used to whatever you brainstorm rather than keep changing it looking for the elusive 'intuitive' structure and naming convention.
            Last edited by enyonam; 01-15-2012, 02:30 AM.


            • #7
              A lot of it is personal preference. When I search in several places before finding a
              physical folder, sometimes I'll move it to the first place I looked, on the theory that
              next time I'll also probably look there.

              Ideally a name for a file represents a concept that will result in a good number of
              things in a folder: Usually more than one page but less than several inches thick.
              Ideally it also fits in with the rest of your system: e.g. if most people are filed
              under their last name, it might be better to avoid filing a few under their first name.

              I have a file on my computer to help me find physical files. I use the vi editor.
              When I file something, I try to think of several different keywords or phrases I
              might use to search for it (like e.g. "gas bill", "house, gas", "paid bills" "heating", etc.)
              and I type in all of those words and phrases into a line of text, under the letter
              of the alphabet where it's actually physically filed. Then when I want to find it,
              I just use the vi search function to search for one or two keywords, and usually
              easily find it. Even if the first one or two keywords I tried aren't there (e.g.
              "utilities"), the second or third one I try probably is. Searching in vi like this is
              very fast, much faster than looking for physical files.

              Tending to have different ideas at different times about where to file something
              could be a sign of a creative mind, constantly seeing things from different points
              of view and thinking up new ideas. Makes filing more difficult, but could help
              in other areas.


              • #8
                Thank you for the replies guys. Very much appreciated


                • #9
                  Originally posted by cwoodgold View Post
                  When I file something, I try to think of several different keywords or phrases I
                  might use to search for it (like e.g. "gas bill", "house, gas", "paid bills" "heating", etc.)
                  and I type in all of those words and phrases into a line of text, under the letter
                  of the alphabet where it's actually physically filed. Then when I want to find it,
                  I just use the vi search function to search for one or two keywords, and usually
                  easily find it.
                  Interesting approach. I'm not sure how to implement that in my own system for quick searching, I hate VI and nearly all flat text systems but the idea is intriguing.


                  • #10
                    I'm like a few of the above and lean toward areas of focus - though there are then subfolders under there that amount to projects.

                    One thing I'm very particular on is putting thought into the filename of each of my e-files. While search capabilities on Windows7 are great, the quickest search is on file name only. I typically include date information (I use a standard yymmdd format) and anything else meaningful (so in the case of a bill, it might include the gas company name and "paid").

                    Good luck!


                    • #11
                      I like the idea of 60 seconds meaning it's filed just fine. I have a root directory called "My Stuff" and underneath are folders for Writing, School, Photos, etc. I also use the @ symbol to float my most frequently accessed folders to the top--in this case, Writing and School (I should probably float Photos up, too).

                      In the computer, extensive hierarchy is a lot easier to manage than in a file drawer. So even though in my file drawer I have a straight A-Z file with no folders inside folders, on the computer, I employ a pretty thorough hierarchy, where a handout for a class might be under Academia > Term Spring 2012 > Cross Cultural Communication > Handouts. But I try to mirror the system so that a handout for another class would be under Academia > Term Spring 2012 > Other Class > Handouts.

                      Computers are just different beasts than file drawers, and although the same principle applies--file so that it could only be in two or three places, I think straight A-Z files don't make quite as much sense on the computer as they do in paper.


                      • #12
                        I hadn't realized how much my computer filing system need an overhaul until I read this thread. Thank you all for your comments. I'm adding a new project to the projects list...


                        • #13
                          Thanks for the replies guys. Again, very much appreciated


                          • #14

                            Originally posted by macgrl View Post
                            Thanks for the replies guys. Again, very much appreciated
                            I have a general index for the most important cathegories of my A-Z organisation and I put it at 'I' like Index in that same file.
                            I'm french so please excuse my english if anything wasn't clear!


                            • #15
                              My file organization tends to depend heavily on naming conventions rather than folders. For example, the test plan for version 1.8 of the Widget project, if I were working on it right this second, would be named:


                              I tend to back up things a lot when editing them, so I might have a bunch of these:


                              The times at the end tell me that this is likely a work in progress, and when I come on a stream of these later I can safely delete all but the last one, or even all of them.

                              When it's reached some milestone I'll leave out the time but keep the date and name it something like:


                              The exact rules for the fancy names vary. They almost always start with the date in the YYMMDD format, and end with the time if they will have a time, but I never remember any naming convention for the words in between. But as long as I get the project name and some string that identifies what it's about ("TestPlan" "ReportRequirement", and so on), I can usually find what I want with a fairly quick search, no matter what folder I've stuffed it into.