Computer Filing? I had this nightmare that I walked into my closet and all of my clothes were off the shelves and hangers and just piled up and mixed up like a well-tended compost heap in the middle of the closet floor.

I was late for work and needed to find a certain outfit, but I couldn’t. I was tossing sweaters, boots, and skirts aside, looking for the outfit. I broke down into a fit of tears, as I needed this specific outfit as it was company photo day.  Finally, I woke up to realize it was just a dream. With a sigh of relief, I made my coffee and walked in my PJs to my office, remembering that I telecommute to work.

What has this nightmare have to do with designing your filing system? Everything. Without an intentionally designed filing system, looking for a particular file or email can resemble my nightmare – You need it, you know it is there, but you just can’t  find it in the heap.

When you use the default save settings of your computer, chances are your files are saving to a single directory (parent folder). Each time you save a file, it is like adding another garment to the growing compost heap that is your files in the middle of the floor. Think of this article as a personal Martha Stewart for your file structures. We’re going to get you organized!

Visualize Computer Filing System

Remember the days of filing cabinets? There was nothing haphazard about them. They even came with little metal plates on the front of the drawers so that you knew what was in each drawer.

You would open a labeled drawer and what would you see? You’d see Pendaflex hanging folders with labeled tabs, often sorted alphabetically, categorically, or by some other very logical system. And what was in those hanging Pendaflex files? Manilla folders with carefully labeled tabs. And what was within the manila folders? You got it, files.

This system made a lot of sense. You could pretty much walk blindly in to any office and find a file. Visualize this: your computer files set up the same way. Ahhhhh, you just woke up from the nightmare.

But How Do I Design a Computer Filing System?

I’m always reminding my students that computers are designed for efficiency. They are thoughtfully programmed to make your life easier and more efficient, and this is the case when it comes to setting up filing systems.

1)      Go to “Computer” o “My Computer” depending on which version of Windows you are using.

2)      Open “My Documents” or “Documents” – this is your filing cabinet

3)      Right click in any white area within “Documents” and select “New” and then “Folger” to create a new folder.

4)      Name that folder whatever you would put in the metal plate on the outside of your filing cabinet

5)      Open that new folder, and repeat ” Create New Folder” for the hypothetical Pendaflex files

6)      Repeat again for the hypothetical Manilla Folders

Congratulations! You just designed a filing system.

Now, when you go to save a file that you are working on, save it in to its proper folder or sub-folder. For the heap of files you already have going, just drag and drop them in to their proper folders and it will be like a magic genie just cleaned your closet floor.

Here’s an example: Within my documents directory I have all kinds of folders.

One of them is called “Clients” (file drawer).

Within the “Clients” folder are a bunch of sub-folders, one with each of my clients’ names (Pendaflex folders) on it.

Within each of those folders are several more folders, usually named with the particular projects (Manilla Folders) I am working on for that client.

And finally, within those folders are the files that are pertinent to that particular project for that particular client.

Sometimes there are even more folders within a project folder, but you get the idea. You can design your filing system to be as intricate as you need it to be.

Keep in mind that you can also do this with your email. Email is probably the place where most of you need the most organized filing systems. Every email program is different, but I assure you that they are all designed to make setting up a filing system super easy. Just sniff around a bit, and I’m sure you will see how to make this happen.