Article: "Where Did I Save That Document? Organizing
Your Computer Files"
What happened to the paperless office? We generate more
paper now than we ever did before the advent of the
computer! A computer's hard drive can get just as
cluttered as any other part of the office. With seemingly
limitless storage capacity, it's easy to create piles of files
on your computer. This section will help you file your
documents more logically and find them more easily.
1. Use directories and subdirectories. The first step in
creating your electronic filing system is to create the
structure. Let's say you had a filing cabinet where you
stored your paper files. If every folder were labeled "My
Documents," you wouldn't find anything. Microsoft
automatically sets up a folder titled "My Documents,"
where you can save your documents. If you save
EVERYTHING under this directory, you will never be able
to find what you need. Just like your paper files, you
should save your computer documents into folders,
sometimes called directories and subdirectories.
2. Set up your filing system. The most important thing is
to point all your saved files into ONE main directory. You
won't believe how incredibly easy it is to do backups: you
simply burn one directory to a CD. I don't use the "My
Documents" directory (although you can, with subfolders).
In Windows Explorer, I created a directory called
c://a_laura under my c: drive. If you put the letter "a" in
front of your name with an underscore, it will always be
the FIRST directory in the folder list, making saves faster.
Under your main directory, create subfolders with the
main categories of documents you save. Don't worry
about the TYPE of document (word processing,
spreadsheet, database, etc.), just think about the category.
For example, I use the following subdirectories:
Then within each subdirectory, I create additional folders.
Under my business directory, I use:
Book, Clipart, Contracts, Courses, Keynotes, Marketing,
Media, Newsletters, Policies, Postcards, Products,
Promotional, Templates, Websites
Many of the above then have additional subdirectories.
Some folders go eight subfolders deep.
3. Save documents in the correct location. Each time I
create a document, regardless of the program it was
created in, I save it in the appropriate directory. You will
have Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and
PowerPoint presentations all in the same directory, which
doesn't matter because the correct files display when you
open a file from the correct software program. Select
"File," "Save As," and use the "up" arrow until you locate
the correct directory. Change your saving preferences in
Word under "Tools," "Options," "File Locations." When
you save a new document, it will automatically go to the
correct directory location.
4. Create naming conventions for your files. Now that
you've located the correct directory, you have to give it a
name that will make it easy to find later. I save contracts in
the format YYMMDD CLIENT PROGRAM. I would save a
contract under c://a_laura/business/contracts/2003. All
the contracts within that directory would be listed in
chronological order. When I first started using computers,
they were all DOS-based (now I'm feeling my age). I used
to have to name files with eight letters. Thank heavens for
Windows! Now we have a 255-character capability for file
names, so go ahead and make the name as long as you
want! The bigger the name, the more likely you will be
able to find it again using a keyword search. Ask yourself,
"If I want this file again, what words or phrases would I
think of first?"
5. Find what you need. If your directory system hits a
snag, don't despair! You can still find that file you created
using the "Search" feature of your operating system. If I'm
out of town and John needs to quickly locate a file to send
to a client, he can go to the Start Menu, Search, files or
folders, select a_laura, and type in any words he thinks
would describe the document, and it's there! We also have
a printout of my file directory, so he can quickly locate
files in Windows Explorer as well.
My colleagues and clients are always amazed when we're
on the phone together and they request a piece of
information, I can locate it in seconds. It's easy to create
documents and save them. The big trick is retrieving them
again. Using the five steps I described above, you will be
able to find the files you want, when you want them, in 30
seconds or less.
(c) Copyright 2003 Laura Stack, MBA, CSP. All rights
reserved. Portions of this newsletter may be reprinted in
your organization or association newsletter, provided the
following credit line is present:
"Laura M. Stack, MBA, CSP, is "The Productivity PRO,"(r)
helping people leave the office earlier, with less stress, and
more to show for it. She presents keynotes and seminars
on time management, information overload, and personal
productivity. Contact her at 303-471-7401 or