Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Organizing Your Computer

We all struggle with managing all of the files on our computers. Email attachments and other files come flooding in, and it’s hard to determine where to store them. Many of us are working long hours these days, so an efficient machine is key to productivity. Here are some tips to keep your computer files in order.

Avoid storing files on the desktop. Your desktop can get full, overwhelming and confusing very quickly. The desktop isn’t as secure as other areas of the computer, and it’s easy to forget to include the desktop when backing up files. Instead, store files in your “My Documents” folder. If necessary, create shortcuts to certain files on your desktop.

Organize your “My Documents” folder. Make sure the folders have names that make sense to you. Try to name folders the same names as your paper file folders. If you have a paper file folder named “Taxes,” name your computer folder “Taxes.” Also, try to keep the sub-folder structures the same.

Create a “Personal” folder on your office computer. If you use a company-owned computer for work, try not to store personal files on it. If you must, though, create a separate file folder named “Personal” (or something similar). Clear out this folder often. Also, if you leave the job, you can delete your “Personal” folder or copy it to a disk or external drive.

Take time to name your files. When saving a new file or incoming attachment, take an extra few seconds to choose “Save as...” (instead of “Save”). Type a descriptive file name and save the file in the appropriate folder. This step will help you find your files more quickly. Although most computers have search functions that review all of the contents of documents, this content search takes the computer longer than completing the regular document title search.

Schedule a monthly clean-up appointment. Just as you would do for any other organizing system, schedule time to maintain it. An hour a month to clean up your computer files should be sufficient. Name files that were left unnamed, and move documents into the appropriate folders. This is also a great time to archive and back up your files onto a CD-R, external drive, or online service. If you have large and/or old files that you can remove from your computer, it is a good idea to archive them. After archiving, you can back up the files that should stay on your computer but that would be difficult or impossible to replace. If your computer crashes, having a back-up is a life-saver!

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