Module Nine: Organizing Files and Folders

Organizing Files and Folders

Being able to find a particular piece of information when you need it is essential to being productive. Some studies estimate that people spend up to an hour and a half each day looking for things! This module will give you some ways to keep your files organized. 

Organizing Paper Files 

To retrieve materials quickly, you’ll need an effective filing system that includes three basic kinds of files:  

  1. Working files: Materials used frequently and needed close at hand. 
  1. Reference files: Information needed only occasionally. 
  1. Archival files: Materials seldom retrieved but that must be kept. For ease of retrieval, organize files in the simplest way possible. For example, you could label files with a one or two-word tag and arrange the files alphabetically. 

Organizing Electronic Files 

Even with advanced search tools, it is important to organize your computer files (including your e-mail) in a way that makes sense to you and enables you to retrieve information quickly. One of the most common ways of organizing electronic files is to create a folder for each project or task and then create sub-folders as appropriate. (For e-mail, you may want to create folders for correspondence with particular people.)  

To take organization a step further, use the operating system or search program features like keywords, tags, jump lists, and virtual folders. 

Scheduling Archive and Clean-Up 

In order to keep your files organized, you must clean up and archive your files regularly. Set a consistent date and put a reminder in your calendar. This could be at the end of each month, the end of each quarter, or at the beginning of each year – it depends on what works for you. 

For paper files, go through your working and reference files and move any old items to archive files, being sure to label and store them consistently. Likewise, go through your archive files and see if you can throw anything out. (Be sure to shred sensitive documents.)  

For electronic files, there are many applications to help you archive your data. Many e-mail applications offer an automatic archive feature. Likewise, you can move files to a CD, DVD, or external storage area. This is also a good time to perform a backup of your entire system. 

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