Personal Productivity – Module 8
“Out of clutter, find Simplicity. From discord, find Harmony. In the middle of difficulty lies Opportunity.”
– Albert Einstein
Organizing Files and Folders
Being able to find a particular piece of information when you need it is essential to being productive. Some studies estimate that people spend up to an hour and a half each day looking for things! This module will give you some ways to keep your files organized.
Organizing Paper Files
To retrieve materials quickly, you’ll need an effective filing system that includes three basic kinds of files:
1. Working files: Materials used frequently and needed close at hand.
2. Reference files: Information needed only occasionally.
3. Archival files: Materials seldom retrieved but that must be kept. For ease of retrieval, organize files in the simplest way possible. For example, you could label files with a one or two word tag and arrange the files alphabetically.
Organizing Electronic Files
Even with advanced search tools, it is important to organize your computer files (including your e-mail) in a way that makes sense to you and enables you to retrieve information quickly. One of the most common ways of organizing electronic files is to create a folder for each project or task and then create sub-folders as appropriate. (For e-mail, you may want to create folders for correspondence with particular people.)
To take organization a step further, use operating system or search program features like keywords, tags, jump lists, and virtual folders.
Scheduling Archive and Clean-Up
In order to keep your files organized, you must clean up and archive your files regularly. Set a consistent date and put a reminder in your calendar. This could be at the end of each month, the end of each quarter, or at the beginning of each year – it depends on what works for you.
For paper files, go through your working and reference files and move any old items to archive files, being sure to label and store them consistently. Likewise, go through your archive files and see if you can throw anything out. (Be sure to shred sensitive documents.)
For electronic files, there are many applications to help you archive your data. Many e-mail applications offer an automatic archive feature. Likewise, you can move files to a CD, DVD, or external storage area. This is also a good time to perform a backup of your entire system.
Robin had run late because she currently swam in heaps of papers and files in her office. Finding the report her boss needed felt like looking for a needle in a haystack. Sharon offered to give her a hand knowing Robin would waste time looking for reports until the cows came home. Sharon suggested a better way and gave Robin a sliver of hope. Sharon showed Robin how to take the old files and tuck them neatly away in an organized fashion and gave her the tools to keep her recent files from disappearing from right under her nose by giving them a place to call home within an arm’s reach for Robin. Together they were able to save Robin from drowning in her sea of files and save time by marching to the beat of a much more organized drummer.