So we have talked about some strategies for managing your email. But what about all the other documents and files that live on your computer? Those need a system too. Because just like with our paper files we want to able to find and retrieve and put away those documents really quickly and easily when we need them. Just as with email, most computers now have pretty effective search functions, but that still isn’t as effective as just knowing where your things are. And with the systems that we are going to talk about now, you will know where your things are more often than not. One thing to keep in mind is that you have already spent some time and energy and effort at this point creating some structure for your paper files. You may have used a file map with category names on them. We want to keep those structures that we use to keep those formats as similar as possible.
Most computers now let you name things with a really long string of characters. So having things in the file name like a description of what the file is about, the version number, the date it was created, who created it – all of those things can generally fit in the file name itself. When those things are in the file name you can very quickly open up a folder full of files and very simply and easily find the one that you are looking for without having to open and close each individual file. This can be a major time saver. Take a few minutes, create a naming convention now which is simply a set of guidelines or a set of rules for what you want to call your electronic documents in the future. Use that structure for any files that you create from today forward. That way all of your new things will be organized in a fashion that make it much easier to actually find them and retrieve them later.
In addition to the files that are already on your computer or the electronic files that you create, you may decide that you want to do away with as much paper as possible. One of the ways to do that is by scanning. Scanning is where you take your papers and you put them into a machine called a scanner. And the scanner translates them into an image file that lives on your computer.
This provides a number of benefits. It saves you the space of paper – you don’t have to take up any space in your office for any files. Also once papers are in your computer and in electronic format, they can be searched just like you would search for any other document that is on your computer. Because the software that comes with most scanners reads the text that is on the documents and translates them into a format that your computer can then search through. This can be super helpful. It can make it a lot easier to actually find and retrieve the information that you are looking for.
One of the downsides however of scanning is that it often can be quite time consuming. If you have many drawers worth of files it can take hours to scan all the documents in. Now there are services that can do the scanning for you but they can be quite costly. So there are definitely plusses to scanning. You can find your things easily and it saves a lot of space. But there are costs that are associated with it as well. It is either your time scanning the documents or the costs associated with having it done through a scanning service.
Some of the costs associated with scanning: a desk top scanner – a good high speed one, not one that you feed the sheets through one by one, that will take forever – one that you can put a stack of 25 or 50 documents in, will generally cost you between $300 and $500 for a basic desktop scanner that comes with software.
A scanning service will cost a different amount. Usually they price it per page – usually between 5 and 20 cents per page, depending on whether the document is in colour or whether you want both sides scanned. A typical file box worth of documents will cost a few hundred dollars to have scanned. So depending on how much you need scanned and how frequently you plan on doing your scanning yourself, one or the other option might be a better fit for you.
Read more about organizing your virtual files at www.profitableproductivitysystem.com.