You’ve most likely heard the term “hoarding” as it relates to the “stuff” in your life. But, have you heard of digital hoarding? I don’t freely use this term, and it’s not likely you are hoarding information, but it’s certainly possible that your electronic information has gotten a bit out of control.
There are “visible” and “non-visible” forms of clutter. The non-visible forms are not easy to see, but can still cause chaos in your life. Think for a moment about your laptop or computer. At first glance your computer doesn’t look disorganized just sitting there, but look inside and you may decide differently. It doesn’t matter if you are a PC or Mac user – these ideas will help you either way.
Organizing Your Desktop
Is your desktop cluttered with icons and folders, making it difficult to find information quickly? Think of your computer desktop like your physical desktop. Only those items you use on a regular basis should be on this surface. Take 15 or 20 minutes to do the following:
- Delete icons of programs you no longer or have never used. Deleting an icon will not delete the program. You can always create a shortcut to the program in the future if needed.
- Delete stand-alone files you have temporarily stored on your desktop if you no longer need them. If you still need them, you could put them into a folder on your desktop or file them in your electronic filing system.
- Organize the icons (shortcuts) to your programs, files and folders in groups according to how you use this information. The picture below is a screen shot of my desktop. On the left side, I have the program and application icons I use most often. On the right side, I have a few folders of information I access frequently along with a couple of stand-alone documents. By creating zones for each type of information, I can quickly locate something on my desktop, and the picture of our family, which I like to see, doesn’t get cluttered up.
- Ensure that any files you have saved to your desktop are backed up. You probably won’t be too happy if you lose one of these important files, right?
Organizing Your Computer Files
A good system to organize your electronic files starts with a good structure. This is no different than a great paper filing and retrieval system; it all starts with the structure. In the absence of a structure it’s too easy to store information in random locations, making it difficult to retrieve. If you think about it, a good filing system serves two purposes, storage and retrieval:
1. A place to store your information, making it easy to know exactly where to file something.
2. A place where you can quickly retrieve information when needed to prevent the panic of wondering where on earth something was saved.© Eliminate Chaos
Pictured here is an image of the filing structure I use for my personal electronic files. Notice that the overall structure is short, which makes it easy to file and retrieve information. Many of these folders contain subfiles as well. Take for example, the Credit Card Statements folder. There is a folder for each credit card, which I’ve name according to the type of card. Each month I can file a PDF of the statement here.
Here’s what you can do to get started:
- Create a main folder for your personal files; I like to use people’s names for this, which is why mine is called “Laura.”
- Look at the type of information you are storing and start creating folders with related names. Don’t worry that nothing is in the folders yet; get the structure in place first. You can fill the folders later.
- Go back through the structure and start to make your subfolders.
- When you get to the point where you are organizing (or filing) your electronic documents into your new structure, consider whether you still need each document. Certain documents may need to be eliminated because they no longer serve a purpose or are duplicates.
Keep in mind that like any organizing project, this is a process. Depending on the volume of information you have, it could take a bit of time. You don’t have to complete this project in one sitting. However, it’s best if you can spend about 10 to 15 minutes a day on this so that you keep the progress fresh in your mind. I know that you will enjoy the benefits of a well-organized computer when you can quickly file and retrieve the information you need.
Laura Leist, CPO
Organizing with Laura