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Getting Your Files in Order (Even When Life Isn’t)

Quarantined? Working from home? Maybe it’s the perfect time to get your files in order since life may not be.

We’ve all been seeing the posts about how now is a good time to get your home organized or teach your children skills they wouldn’t learn about at school. Maybe now is the perfect time for you to reboot or learn something new that will help your career. But maybe you’re just too tired. You’re worried and scared and you know that you need to work right now because none of us knows what the future will bring.

Getting your files organized isn’t earth-shattering. It won’t help others. It won’t make you money. However, it does have a return on investment that will help your future self when you’re back at work and life gets busy again.

Here is my favorite way of organizing files both personal and professional.


Make 26 folders – one for each letter of the alphabet. Create sub-folders with the name of your projects and file them alphabetically just like you would put them into a filing cabinet. I have done this for my professional and personal files for years and it may seem rudimentary but I really like it.


Once you have your files structure set, you may then want to break your subfolders down by dates within each folder.


If you have reports that you send every week, change the way that you name your files. That way, they are automatically sorted in your file management system.

2020 - January

  • 2020-01-06 - Marketing Status Report.doc

  • 2020-01-13 - Marketing Status Report.doc

  • 2020-01-20 - Marketing Status Report.doc

  • 2020-01-27 - Marketing Status Report.doc


Don’t save your files on your computer. Your work files should be saved on your company’s network. Your personal files should be saved on a cloud drive. There are many options – iCloud, Dropbox, Box, Google Drive. You never know when the olive oil salad dressing will fall on your laptop. Trust me, don’t save your files on your computer.


  • Skip Downloads. Don’t let files sit in your Downloads folder. Either file them where they belong or delete them.

  • File things immediately. If you wait to file things, they’ll get out of hand really fast. As soon as you create or receive a file, put it in its proper place.

  • Sort everything once a week. With that said, either every Monday morning or Friday evening, look through the files you’ve worked on that week and make sure they’re in the right place. Tidy things up, delete any unnecessary files, and generally, stop things getting messy before they get too bad. If you use a Mac, there are apps like Hazel that can automate it for you.

  • Search is powerful. The Search feature is really powerful. If you can’t find a file by looking, try searching for it. If you’ve named your files and folders correctly, it will be easy to find.

Stick with it. Don’t just give up after a few days. It always takes a little time to adapt to something new. Commit to using your file structure for a couple of weeks before scrapping it.

Besides, we’ve got time right?


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