Organize Your Computer Files

25.10.2020 |

Episode #4 of the course How to set up a productive working environment by Melissa Chu


Yesterday, you decluttered your workspace and set up a flow. Working in a clean, organized space brings peace of mind and encourages productive working habits.

Today, we’re going to apply the same principle to your digital working space: your computer.

Have you ever seen a desktop screen completely covered with icons? It is an eyesore. If that’s your screen, then you know it’s not only an eyesore, but a hassle to sort through.

Having a clean, organized file system on your computer works much the same as organizing your physical workspace. An organized computer creates lower stress, files are easier to find, and you’re more likely to start and continue working on your tasks.


How to Organize Your Computer Files

Let’s go over how to organize your computer files and make them easy to find.

1. Choose one root folder to put all your files.

All your files should exist in one folder under your C: drive or D: drive. On my computer, the C: drive is designated for software and program files, and the D: drive for the files I use. The navigation might look like this: D:\My Files.

By placing all your files into one drive, it’s easier to navigate, backup onto an external drive, migrate to another computer, and create networks. Ignore the default folders on your operating system, such as “Documents”, “Pictures”, etc.

The setup is one general folder that contains subfolders, which branch further into subfolders (and so on).

2. Decide the structure of your files.

Ask yourself: How do you navigate your files? Do you work on certain files within a set time, such as a year? Or do you work on one project, finish it, and move to another? The key is to organize your folders so that you can stay within the same folder branch when working on a task.

There are three ways to set up your folders: by project, date, or category. If applicable, use a hybrid system. For instance, you might break files down by project, then further subdivide by year and then into categories.

Below are two examples.

Example #1: You run a small business.

At the top level is a folder with your company name. Inside that folder, you organize your folders by year. Within each year, you have folders for different categories: bank statements, invoices, expenses, payroll, and tax documents. If you have files that aren’t specific to a year, you can create a reference folder that contains templates, notes, and documents.

Example #2: You’re a freelancer and usually work on one or two projects at a time.

As a freelancer, you probably have work that, once finished, can be stored away. If so, you can create a folder for your work-in-progress, and another folder for finished work. The work-in-progress folder only has a couple of files that you’re actively working on. Once finished, you would move the file into the finished work folder. You can subdivide your finished work into categories, dates, or projects, depending on what’s easiest to find in the future.

There is no single method that is best for organizing your folders. Your method is specific to your needs and situation.

One thing to keep in mind is you should have a manageable number of files within each folder. If you only have a couple of files in each folder, it’s too specific. But if you have twenty or more items, then your folder is too general. Your folders should be organized so that you know where to look for your file, but don’t have to click through endless folders to get there.

3. Clean up the clutter.

The most common clutter areas are your Downloads folder and desktop. Avoid putting individual files in these places. Instead, move them into the folders they belong in.

If you want quick access to a folder or file you use frequently, create a shortcut. To do so, right-click the icon, click “Copy”, go to your Desktop, right-click and select “Paste shortcut”.

4. “Electronic-fy” your life.

To further declutter your physical space, store documents electronically. Those sticky notes on your desk can often be stored on your computer. If you have reference sheets, statements, or other papers, you can scan them or take pictures and move them onto your computer.


Take a Bit of Time to Tidy Up

Whenever you create a new file or download something, take a bit of time to put the file in the right folder. That way, you avoid a buildup of files without a home on your computer.

Tomorrow, we’re going to look at your office ergonomics. Are you eating, drinking, and sitting your way to a productive day?



Recommended book

10-Minute Digital Declutter: The Simple Habit to Eliminate Technology Overload by S.J. Scott and Barrie Davenport