NYT Wirecutter article on organizing digital files

mcogilvie

Registered
Great piece by NYT Wirecutter on organizing digital files. Thought it’d be a good share to the forum!

The only problem with the article is that I have my own long-standing habits, which are lazier but effective for me.
 

Håvard Pedersen

Registered
I also recommend taking a look at the PARA system for organizing files. It has been great for me (and also eases periodic cleanup).

 

mcogilvie

Registered
If I may ask, what are your “lazier” (easier?) and effective digital filing habits?

Sarah
You have to understand the my files go way back. Some very early files are in Sumerian, but I switched from Aramaic to Latin about 2 millennia ago, and to English during the Elizabethan period. So I’m not strongly motivated to do some big overhaul that I probably wouldn’t stick with. My files are organized by area of focus, with a number preceding to fix the sort order the way I want. Some areas are mostly projects, and some are mostly reference. Some, like admin, are a mix. I find sorting by date and by title is enough to find anything without too much trouble.
 

Sarahsuccess

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You have to understand the my files go way back. Some very early files are in Sumerian, but I switched from Aramaic to Latin about 2 millennia ago, and to English during the Elizabethan period. So I’m not strongly motivated to do some big overhaul that I probably wouldn’t stick with. My files are organized by area of focus, with a number preceding to fix the sort order the way I want. Some areas are mostly projects, and some are mostly reference. Some, like admin, are a mix. I find sorting by date and by title is enough to find anything without too much trouble.
Thanks.
I have some files on those square hard disks. I’m not sure how, or if I ever will want to read those files. Probably from the Latin era. I’m pretty sure Aramaic is from before the world went digital.
As for English, I have plenty of files in my downloads and documents folder. This is motivation to put them into folders by category, and sort them by what they mean to me (paraphrased from David Allen).
 

Sarahsuccess

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@Sarahsuccess Downloaded files are a big problem for me. They often have meaningless filenames and I often find them quicker online than in my OneDrive repository.

I think I should treat my Downloads folder as an inbox, and clarify it as a regular inbox: delete what I don’t need or could easily get again, decide if any files trigger an action or project, and store what I want to keep as reference in folders by category.
 

John Forrister

GTD Connect
Staff member
I think I should treat my Downloads folder as an inbox, and clarify it as a regular inbox: delete what I don’t need or could easily get again, decide if any files trigger an action or project, and store what I want to keep as reference in folders by category.
Exactly! In recent years I've found that the Downloads folder turns into the center desk drawer, or the kitchen catch-all drawer unless I regularly clarify the files.
 

Jeremy Jones

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I think I should treat my Downloads folder as an inbox, and clarify it as a regular inbox: delete what I don’t need or could easily get again, decide if any files trigger an action or project, and store what I want to keep as reference in folders by category.

Nice suggestion!

Oh - incidentally, that's why for years I haven't used the Windows recycle bin. When I delete, I do a permanent delete of whatever I've selected. I get a warning, that I must confirm, but if I've decided I want to delete something, I don't need to subsequently review it again, or even use unnecessary keystrokes to permanently delete it.
 
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StephenAdams

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I also recommend taking a look at the PARA system for organizing files. It has been great for me (and also eases periodic cleanup).

I've started implementing the PARA system, I'm halfway through the Second Brain book. It's great for managing notes etc, but I can't, yet, see how GTD and PARA can work together? Lists by contexts don't seen to have a place with PARA?
 

RomanS

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I've started implementing the PARA system, I'm halfway through the Second Brain book. It's great for managing notes etc, but I can't, yet, see how GTD and PARA can work together? Lists by contexts don't seen to have a place with PARA?
PARA does not serve as a substitute for lists. I use PARA to organize my (according to GTD) reference and support material, i.e. to structure the notebook, analog and digital filing.
 
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Sarahsuccess

Registered
Exactly! In recent years I've found that the Downloads folder turns into the center desk drawer, or the kitchen catch-all drawer unless I regularly clarify the files.
Another “kitchen catch-all drawer” for me are my open tabs in Safari on my iPhone. I’d appreciate if anyone can share suggestions or experience in handling open tabs in Safari.
 

mcogilvie

Registered
Another “kitchen catch-all drawer” for me are my open tabs in Safari on my iPhone. I’d appreciate if anyone can share suggestions or experience in handling open tabs in Safari.
i find tab groups are very useful because they collect and name related sites, and are easier to use on a time scale of days to months.
 

gtdstudente

Registered
I also recommend taking a look at the PARA system for organizing files. It has been great for me (and also eases periodic cleanup).

Thank you, looked up PARA it has overlap with What I GTD-do: I [Vertical]. Area-of-Focus (Reference, Projects, Project(s)-Support) and II [Horizontal]. Calendar/Calendar-Support and Contexts/Contexts-Support
 

DavidAllen

GTD Connect
I am simply using OneNote now for random data to save/access, since we switched from IBM Notes. Easy to create new categories, and a powerful Search function in case you forgot. I took a month to eliminate or transfer my Evernote notes (useful exercise in many ways). And I still use DropBox for things that need to be shared. And, of course, I still use an alpha-sorted paper-based filing system behind my desk. Paper lasts better and longer than digital!
 
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