Thursday, January 20, 2011

Organize Computer Files

Now that we've tackled organizing our digital pictures, let's organize our computer documents. It may seem like a daunting task, but I promise that it is entirely doable and that it will be worth it in the long run.

I love folders! I love paper folders, I love cutesy folders, I love labeled folders, and I love computer folders! Using computer folders to organize my documents has made my life so much simpler.

When we got our first computer years ago (13-15 years??), I had 1 folder in my documents called "Bethany" and there was 1 folder called "Bill" (for my hubby). And that was sufficient for my Christmas card list and a copy of the complaint letter I wrote to the insurance company. It was actually sufficient for quite a few years.

Then I started teaching at a private school. Then I started writing. Then I got my own laptop computer. Then it wasn't enough.

Out of habit, I created a "Bethany" folder on my new laptop and proceeded to dump into it all of my teaching files, all of my writing files, all of my homeschool files, and all of my miscellaneous files. Then I tried to find a particular file. Yikes!

Time for a new approach. So, I created a filing system within my documents that helps me to organize all of my files for the different parts of my life (teaching, learning, homeschooling, writing, editing, etc.) and to find any given document easily.

*Disclaimer* The exact steps that I'm going to outline are for PC users who have a Windows operating system. I know nothing about Macs or other operating systems, but you can still use the folder principle.

Here's how to set up folders for documents on a PC (I have Vista, but it's roughly the same for any Windows operating system). Go to "Start," then "Documents." A new window will pop up with all of your document files. Click on "File" (upper left button), then "New," the "Folder."

You'll be able to name the new file. I suggest making a separate file folder for each type or topic of document that you can see in your general "Documents" folder. For instance, some of my folder titles include different companies for which I write or edit, "writing ideas," "e-books," "homeschool," one for each of my children, "health," and "genealogy." There are more, of course, but you get the idea. If you need more help for how to decide what kinds of categories you need, see this post on setting up a filing system. Basically, set up your folders in a way that makes sense to you.

After make some new folders and label them, it's time to start moving the individual files to their new folders. Decide which category makes the most sense for each file, then simply click and drag it to that folder. That's it! Once you get going on clicking and dragging, you'll have so much fun that it won't take much time at all to make sense of the dozens of uncategorized files in your "Documents" folder :-).

That's it! Next time you save a document, be sure to save it into the proper folder. Next time you need to retrieve a document, you'll be able to find it in a snap instead of wasting valuable time looking for it.

Please let me know how it works for you!