Organizing Computer Files | Giftie Etcetera: Organizing Computer Files

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Organizing Computer Files

I've had some amazing bosses. So when I say that I have had some terrible bosses, please realize that the majority of my professional life has been filled with supportive and inspirational leaders. 

Now, to the juicy part...

One boss, who made me very uncomfortable (imagine, if you will, calling when he KNEW I would be having a mammogram because he figured I was "free to chat about a client" or sitting too close in his truck on a long drive to a deposition), later got arrested for solicitation of a prostitute. Another got fired and had a mental breakdown, complete with hospitalization, a few months after I quit (in excellent standing, I might add). The f-word was a normal part of her screaming rants at support staff. A third also got fired, after lying about everyone else in the office for two years and giving contracts to men that she would later date. Classy folks, these bosses of mine.

But even from these horrible people, I learned stuff. I practiced being a cut-throat attorney, when necessary. I got prepared to deal with craziness. I learned to document everything (in the case of the lying boss), work on relationships with the sane people who were Mrs. F-bomb's victims (most people, truly, are sane and likable), and answer interview questions with class. (Yes, an interviewer once saw the name of the accused felon/former boss on my resume - before I knew about his arrest - and asked what it was like to work with him, giving his current criminal charges. Yikes.)

The most valuable lesson, though, was an organizing one. The accused felon had an amazing system for storing on-line files. The other two bosses did not, and they lost stuff in the dark world of Microsoft Word all the time.

So, here's a peek at my refined and improved approach to organizing my on-line files (mostly Word and Excel documents).

*Use folders, much like you do in your real life files.

The bonus with on-line filing is that the computer makes an alphabetized index for you.

*Within each folder, use subfolders.

In the above example, I divide up the folder for my kids school into the roles that I play there. I am chairperson of the cafeteria volunteers, a room mom, and a substitute teacher. (I actually have other roles, but they have not created on-line documents. For example, notes from the PTA are in my planner.) I also sometimes buy lunch or pay tuition on-line, and I simply "print" receipts to a PDF and store it in receipts.

In the next example (above), I divide work into human resources documents, research projects (later subdivided by name of the project), and templates (for internal memos, letters, and any reports that are routine).

*Name actual documents in a consistent format, starting with sender/receiver.

If I am the sender or receiver of a filed document, I use the other person's name, the date, and the name of the document.

In this example, I filed an offer of employment. The HR person sent it to me, so her last name goes first, followed by the date, and then the title or descriptor of the document.

In my jobs folder, I list cover letters and resumes by the name of the receiver of the document (by the more broad name of the entity, like 4-H), date, and the description of the document.

I don't know why I used the word master for the template, as I usually use template. I'll probably fix that.

For something like a job search, you might want to use subfolders. For example, I am qualified to teach, I am an attorney, and I could also do other administrative jobs. It would make sense, if I were in the middle of a massive job search, to use three separate subfolders for those items, since the resumes and cover letters would be different for each category.

*Where there is no relevant sender/receiver (other than yourself), n
ame actual documents in a consistent format, starting with type of document.

For example, in my law folder, I note the recipient of one document, the FedEasternDis (Federal Eastern District Court in my state), but for bar dues, simply paid on-line instead of "to" someone, I write bar dues. I did the same thing with the trust account confirmation.

Note there is a subfolder in the above image (with the name of the file redacted). I mentored a fellow attorney, so anything I send to her gets copied into the subfolder. (I say mentored, because she is a kick butt attorney and no longer is a mentee. She is a dear friend, instead.)

TIP: Put a recurring task in your planner to back up your files every three months, or more often if you are working on something big or very active.

Now, go and organize your computer files. And if you have a scanner, scan in EVERYTHING and use this system to free yourself from filing ever again. (I do not have a scanner that is quick enough.)



Gail Morgan said...

If you have multiple docs for the same thing where only the dates are different, for example minutes from several meetings for the same working group, put the dates in yyyy-mm-dd format. Then when you sort your files alphabetically, they'll appear in chronological order.

I've had to fudge it for work, colleagues don't like the format, so I labelled the folders 2014-10 OCTOBER, 2014-09 SEPTEMBER, and so on. All docs for each meeting go inside them. Now they can read the name of the month but I still get my chronological sorting.

Note this method requires you to be rigorous in using the same format - if one file name has a space and the other has a dash, it won't work.

Giftie Etcetera said...

Excellent tip!