Conventional wisdom suggests that an organized person is a productive person. For example, a messy desk is often a telling sign of an unfocused, scattered personality that has trouble getting things done.
The same is true of computers. Making sure that the information on your computer is well organized is a great way to increase your productivity, and the following information provides guidance on how to make that happen.
1. Use Folders
If you’re storing all your Word documents, spreadsheets, photos, or other files into one single folder with no discernible system of organization, it’s time to rethink how you use your computer. As you amass a large number of files, over time, finding specific documents will be incredibly time-consuming if you haven’t taken care to make accessing information quick and easy.
The first step toward that goal is to create separate folders designated for specific content. For example, a sales person may have separate folders for orders, customer contact information, available product lines, delivery information, etc. Within each of those folders, there may be further sub-folders to separate different customer accounts from one another.
The same approach can work to organize your email account. By creating separate folders for different individuals you regularly receive messages from (or for messages related to particular projects or topics), you make referring back to information in the future much easier. With the time saved searching for information on your computer, using folders to organize your life will ultimately make you much more productive.
2. Be Consistent
Some experts offer hyper-specific recommendations on the best approach to naming computer files (i.e., use no more than 15 letters in a file name; only use lowercase letters; never include spaces in file names, etc.). If a rigid method of naming files helps you stay on top of things, go for it. However, the most important thing to remember when creating file names is to remain consistent. As long as you adopt a consist method for folder and file naming, you should be able to easily search for information within your folders and sub-folders.
3. Be Specific
While consistency is a huge step in the right direction, consistently assigning files with vague names won’t make your life much easier. To maximize efficiency, you want your file names to be specific enough to give you a relatively clear understanding of the file’s content. For example, although a file entitled “memo” yields virtually no information about the file contents, creating a file like “memo-john.smith-acme.account-2013″ will save you from clicking through numerous similarly-named files to find the information you need.
4. Dump the Junk
In our culture where everyone seems consumed with a CYA (cover-your-butt!) mentality, some people are understandably tempted to document everything. That often results in saving insignificant files and emails, thus eating up valuable storage space and making finding saved materials on the computer more difficult.
Before saving a document or email message, consider whether you really might ever need to refer back to the information in the future. If the answer is ‘no’, discard it. In addition, get into the habit of periodically scanning old material on your computer and get rid of information that is no longer useful.
5. De-clutter your Desktop
There is nothing that will get a computer user feeling more overwhelmed than a desktop full of saved files and useless icons. Take care to ensure that the information appearing on your desktop is easy to navigate to avoid the appearance of an electronic mess.
6. Syncing Your Information
With people using more and more different programs and electronic devices (from desktops, to laptops, to tablets, to smart phones), the need to sync one’s information has increased exponentially. Some of the biggest names in the information syncing industry right now are Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, Skydrive, iDrive, SugarSync, and Amazon Cloud Drive, but expect the list of available syncing services to continue to grow. When searching for the service right for you, consider factors such as price (some companies have free options), ease of use, and backup reliability.
7. Maintaining a Consistent Online Persona
Individuals and companies that use a variety of social media sites might consider using software to streamline and manage their online presence. Services like Hootsuite, VerticalResponse, TweetDeck, SproutSocial, and Engage121 provides an efficient means to contribute online content without a great deal of time-consuming hassle.
8. Backing up Information
To avoid the possibility of losing important files, it’s always a good idea to routinely back up the information stored on your computer by copying it onto another storage medium, such as an external hard drive or a CD.
If you’re spending wasted hours searching for computer files or duplicating efforts to update your online content, there’s no better time to organize your life than now. These tips will undoubtedly make you more productive and generally make your life easier.