These days it’s hard to scroll through any news feed without stumbling across an article on how to get organized. Writers give their advice on which apps to use, where to meditate, and how many notebooks to have. What if it was simpler than all that? What if the key to defeating disorganization’s death grip was to just sit back, relax and let logic take over?
Turn down the volume of your creative inclinations and let the logical side of your brain get some exercise. Organization is one part math, one part science, and a dash of creativity. The trick to solving the equation is tackling each part, in that order, saving the creative thinking for the very end.
Beating the System by Creating One of Your Own
Imagine it’s your first day at a company and you’re learning how to use their filing system. Pretty soon you discover that Dana is filing folders under the first letter of each organization while Daniel uses the surname of each business’s founder. This isn’t just a hypothetical situation; mix-ups like this happen every day. Your best bet is to start off by creating one solid way of doing things – and then sticking to it. Don’t let yourself or anyone else make up new rules, there’s no need to complicate your system.
When deciding on that one solid way of doing things, consider the kind of business you’re in. Then apply that to your system. If you’re in real estate, you may categorize files by property name or location. If you’re a catering company, you may group files by customer or company name. That bit of information you choose to sort your documents under is the first and most definitive step to the whole process. So don’t be hasty.
Folders Are Forever
When you get word of an upcoming project, make a folder for it. If you’re really feeling productive, make a folder for that future folder. (If it’s something hands-on, delegate a notebook for it.) You can call it something like ”Upcoming Projects” or “Impending Risks”, a clever title that catches your eye each time. Then use that folder religiously. Once you get in the habit of creating a proper place for something, there’s less chance of you scrambling around just to plop it in an unmarked computer crater.
While you’re in organization mode, you should also make sure you have systems in place for existing projects too. For every file you’re working on, take that extra second to create a home for it. That way, if you must leave in a rush, the blueprint will be set, leaving you to simply ‘save’ and dash away.
What Does Your Desktop Say About Your Data Organization?
Digital technology has greatly impacted the way we organize. No longer do we need to gather all of our files in a padlocked warehouse. Today, our documents can be transported from desktop to phone to printer with one click. As easy as it all sounds, we’re still only human. And humans are never as tidy as they think they are.
Take personal computers, for example. Most desktops you find are cluttered with random folders and applications, sloppily strewn across the screen. This is a product of hastily saving everything to the desktop in an absent-minded attempt to speed up the process. Because of this, when someone is hunting down a data file from 2010 in the folder marked 2010 Data, they may be surprised to find it’s not there. It’s so easy to forget where you put something without a system in place. That quick-fix save won’t feel so quick after you’ve spent an hour searching for a single document.
What did we ever do before tags?
Apart from your car keys, you really have no excuse to be losing things anymore. Most computer systems offer the option of adding a tag to the files and folders you create. Tagging items is like leaving a trail of digital breadcrumbs. It works best if you don’t skip around too much, causing gaps in the pathway. When creating tags consider using all names involved: locations, dates, versions, and keywords. We recommend putting a tag (or three) on all of your files. You’ll end up with a good habit and a detailed map in the process.
The Theory of Tangibility
Despite what the internet wants you to believe, there are still businesses that use filing cabinets, physical writing tools, and paper shredders. The ancient art of office organization is something we can all benefit from; handling and organizing documents without mishap takes some serious skill.
Most of the things we lose are a direct result of our own carelessness and bouts of sudden chaos. When all of your most important documents are squeezed in a place that’s constantly humming with commotion, you run the risk of someone hurriedly misplacing a file.
Let’s go back to Dana and Daniel from earlier. Each were filing documents under different guises without even knowing it. Their situation serves as a lesson in managing tangible material: all hands need to be on deck – and on the same page. Otherwise files will get lost in the abyss and the system will fail. Another solution is just to ditch the headache altogether and consider going green. You could even have someone take the task off your hands by hiring a document management service.
Saving the Best for Last
Once you’ve gotten all your document ducks in a row, you can finally redeem all those creativity points you’d been hoarding away. Some projects – like the one where you decide to manage all of your company’s documents – need to be tackled with blinders on. Otherwise you may get distracted by which font to choose or what color to make the labels. Saving the element of design for the very end of your project will keep you focused the whole way through. It also serves as a nice little reward for your organizational accomplishments.
|Andrea has had a lifelong passion for writing. When she’s not blogging you can find her knee-deep in a sea of enterprise software content, playing organ music, cooking ancient delicacies, or dancing to hip hop in her basement.|
Header photo by Lukemn on flickr. Embedded photo by Markus Spiske on flickr.
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