Tips & Ideas To Eliminate Desktop Digital Clutter
> Electronic clutter is just as stressful as real clutter
We all have that one area in our house or in our car that’s a dumping zone for all our stuff.
Think about it.
After your first few steps in the door, everything just gets unloaded and scattered about in that drop zone.
It’s so easy to just dump everything there instead of putting every single thing in a specific spot where it belongs right when you walk in.
So, we all do the easier (ahem, lazier) thing and just tell ourselves that we’ll deal with it later.
But, we don’t.
The mess builds up and soon enough, it’s beginning to look more like a disaster zone than a temporary drop zone.
Then, later on, when we need that one thing, we can’t find it and get stressed out.
And, unfortunately, a lot of us have that same behavior pattern on our computer at work. Our computer desktop is the default drop zone of disaster.
For many of us, it’s our main catch-all for all of our digital stuff.
Come to think of it, you’re almost out of room on that desktop, maybe there is a way to make your files “smaller” so you can fit more. Or, maybe get a bigger monitor? 😉
There are only 116 icons on there right now, and there is definitely a few more important ones you could add.
After all, the desktop IS your archive.
It’s where the past 20 versions of that excel project file live plus the hundreds of others.
And when it comes time to find the latest correct one, you spend waaaay too much time searching for it and trying to figure out if it’s in fact the latest one.
It makes you want to tear your hair out, doesn’t it?
Why is this so stressful?
Why And How Electronic Clutter And Disorganization Increases Stress
Now that you’ve opened nearly every file and folder in your computer, searching for what feels like an eternity, you’re starting to lose your patience.
You blame the computer, the company, the programs, and you’re only moments away from shoving the keyboard up the computer's hard drive.
You can truly feel the stress bubbling up inside of you.
It’s supposed to be easier, quicker, more efficient having a computer. But they way you're using it, it's just adding stress to your workday.
You find yourself neck deep in a sea of digital disaster you don’t need and unable to find the stuff that you do need.
This frustration comes from digital clutter, which is just as, if not more infuriating than real life clutter.
In fact, according to psychologists, we experience the following emotions when dealing with clutter in our lives:
- Our senses end up working over time due to the extreme stimuli caused by clutter.
- This stimuli actually makes it harder to relax. Mainly cause it’s hella distracting!
- It makes it feel like there is no end to work. SO. MANY. FILES.
- Clutter suppresses your creativity and productivity.
- And, lastly, it prevents us from actually being able to access something quickly, making us feel incredibly stressed.
So ironically, if we don’t properly use the technology that is supposed to help us be organized, we end up having frustrations, anxieties, and loss of time.
Luckily, it is not as impossible as it seems to get your computer organized, and your work life back on track.
And since the benefits outweigh any possible downfalls, such as time spent organizing, you’ve got no excuses not to give it a try.
The Benefits Of Having An Organized Digital Filing Method
Other than the obvious of being able to find your files you may be wondering what benefits are there really to having an organized filing system.
Let’s take a look at a few that will win you over in no time!
1. Spend Less Time Looking
If we asked you to grab a coffee cup from your kitchen, we’d bet that you could do it in seconds. You know where all the stuff is in your kitchen and what’s where in each of the cabinets.
If all your files are organized the same kinda way, it could take you only seconds to locate something you haven’t seen in years!
This fast finding method of filing also helps you turn your projects in faster. No more second guessing and endless searching. You’ve got the right file on the first try.
2. Improve Convenience
Have you ever just stepped away from your desk and another coworker asked for the latest shared project file?
Well now that your files are easy to find, you can feel confident in giving them directions on exactly where to download the latest file from your shared drive on the network.
Definitely more convenient than running all the way back to your desk.
3. Makes You A More Reliable Employee
Managers and bosses alike enjoy someone that is organized. And so do your fellow coworkers.
When you can quickly deliver on requests for information, you reinforce your reputation for rapid reliability (wow, that’s a lot of r’s).
Organization and reliability go hand in hand.
4. Documentation Is Always Up To Date
No more self-questioning on whether or not the file is the latest correct one. With proper file naming, you can be assured that you’ve got the right one.
No more fumbling around and opening multiple versions to verify. The older versions get archived and only the latest version is at your fingertips.
5. Increases Your Efficiency
Not only are you more reliable, but you’re also quicker. This efficiency will help you with your workload, your coworkers, and your boss.
Think about how many times that you’ve searched your home for that one thing you needed. Well, if that thing was put back where it belonged originally, you wouldn’t have wasted all that time turning your place upside down looking for it.
It’s the same for digital filing. When files are put in their proper place, you can get to them easily.
6. Improved Task Management
Effective task management makes you way more efficient.
You will find that everything starts running a lot smoother, there are fewer arguments with your computer and fewer errors.
It’s funny how things just seem to flow better when the smallest of things work smoothly. It’s like a domino effect.
7. Better Information Security
Every company nowadays is worried about security, and having all of your files on your desktop is not a good idea.
With a digital file and folder system in place, each document will be properly located in the right folders and backed-up accordingly.
Ideas For Digital File/Folder Naming & Overall Structure
There are a few basic rules for filing, that when you follow, you will be able to not only find everything right away but also get rid of a lot of useless items on your computer.
When you are designing an organizational structure there are the few simple rules you want to follow.
1) Don’t Overcomplicate Things
2) Make It Easy To Use
3) Use Templates
4) Save Your Desktop For Priorities
You want to make sure that no matter what you are doing, it is easy to use, understand and remember.
It All Starts With The Smallest And Most Basic “Building Block” - The File
Labeling and organizing your files and documents properly can actually establish a logical system that will make retrieval of a file 100% easier.
When you start thinking about how you want to organize your files keep in mind the aforementioned rules.
Especially #1, don’t overcomplicate. Life’s hard enough as it is.
If you keep this in mind, combined with the next few sections, you’ll be a pro in no time.
File Naming/Labeling Conventions
When you are naming your files you want to make sure that purely by glancing at the name, you know what it is.
That being said, remember #1, keep it simple.
Try to keep in mind when you would need this file and which keywords you’ll put in the search bar if you forget where you put it.
For example, let’s use meeting minutes. We’ve all had to write ‘em before and there’s always times when we've had to dig them back up for reference.
So, make sure when naming the meeting minutes or any document, be sure to use some of the following information:
- By Date
- By Name (person or project)
- By Company Or Department/Group
- By Type Of Document
When you incorporate the items that make sense for you, it will be easy to know what the file is about and it’ll be easy to search for and find.
For example, let's say we’ve prepared meeting minutes for an update on a project called MC Hammer Pants...c’mon, let’s have fun with this.
In this case, a good file name could be:
One of the great things about using the date at the start of the file name is that it will automatically sort in chronological order, thus making it easy to find.
We’re all used to saying the month, day then year like, “October 31st, 2019” but if you use that date order for file naming, then all the files get sorted my month and not chronologically.
So, stick with year, month then day.
Keep in mind, that there are certain characters that you can not use in the name of a safe file.
In windows you can’t use / \ : * ? " < > |. While in Mac the only one you can’t use is : colon.
So, to keep the file compatible for all, it is good practice to avoid using those symbols.
Folder Naming/Labeling Conventions
For your folders, you won’t need to make it as detailed of a name.
Since Project MC Hammer Pants will have more than one document type across different programs, you will want to keep the main folder more top-level minded.
For example: MC_Hammer_Pants
When labeling sub-folders. It is recommended that you use the primary topic, group, department, etc. that supports that top-level folder.
How you organize your folders will largely depend on your occupation, industry, company and job position.
Keep in mind though, that you want to limit your folders. There is nothing worse than having to mine down layer after layer to get to your file.
Think minimal. Most of your files and documents can fit somehow. Try to narrow it down to less than 10 subfolders.
This is where something like the ABC method can come in handy.
The way it works is that you will have 26 main folders - one for each letter of the alphabet.
Scott Friesen, gives a great simple explanation of his favorite ABC method.
Depending on the structure of your company, this method could be a great place to start. If you find yourself as part of a bigger company that does need more subfolders, don’t fret, as this is still a wonderful starting base.
VIDEO: The Best Way to Manage Files and Folders (ABC Method)
> The ABC filing method avoids massive amounts of sub-folders
> Simple structuring is more powerful and efficient
> Nothing is more than 3 clicks away.
Tips And Tricks For To Become A Pro
Now that you know the basics, it’s time to learn some awesome shortcuts.
As we’ve said before, no one wants to spend too much time on the small things, so let us make them a little easier for you.
The Beauty Of Pre-Set Folders
The one good thing about office work is, it can be pretty repetitive.
There is an incredibly high probability that a lot of your projects will have many of the same common elements. Your roles and responsibilities kinda determine that.
Once you have an idea of what folders are used most often, you can create a template folder with all your subfolders.
Now, instead of grueling folder creation, all you have to do is copy, paste, and rename.
Standardization will not only save you a ton of time, but it will ensure that there is consistency across the board. Hey, if it works for McDonalds and Starbucks, it can work for you.
It’s the small pleasures, like knowing that all your folders will be named the same way and are already in the right place.
Use Your Shortcuts And Your Favorites
There will be certain folders/areas that you will enter more frequently than others.
This is where you can use your computer to your advantage. You can add the specific folders to your favorites section or place a temporary shortcut link on your desktop.
If you are looking for an even quicker access, you can pin it to your taskbar.
Keep in mind too, this doesn’t have to be permanent.
If you are currently working on Project MC Hammer Pants file, and you know you will for the next few days/weeks, pin his shortcut and when you’re done, remove it.
Backing Up Your Files
This may be something your IT guys already do for you. If you’re not sure, check with them.
Backing up your files is highly important because the last thing you want is to lose them.
We’ve all experienced that heart-sinking feeling when you’ve worked on a file for hours without saving and then, all of a sudden the computer craps out on you.
It’s at that moment you realize that all your work just vanished in seconds.
Now, imagine that on a scale exponentially bigger - that’s all of your files and the hours upon hours of work you put in.
So, here are a few different ways to backup your files. And using more than one of them is never a bad idea.
Make sure to check with work to see which ones are allowed, as sometimes there may be sensitive information that cannot be stored on unauthorized equipment.
1. Network Storage Servers/Cloud Storage
These types of data backup save all your files to an off-site or networked storage system. Most all companies have backup file systems in place, so check with your IT department.
Most big companies have network servers that reside at the central hub or main office. And will automatically back up your data, usually at night.
If your company doesn’t do this automatically, work with your IT department to set one up. It’s a good thing.
If you work at a smaller firm where there isn’t an IT department, check with your boss about using cloud storage as a backup option. Some options include Google Drive, DropBox, or Evernote.
2. Flash Drive/USB Stick
Flash drives are perfect for storing information for temporary and easily transportable reasons.
With each passing year, USB thumb drives are getting larger and larger in terms of capacity. While they may not be able to hold all of your desktop data, they can definitely save your most important and current files easily.
If need be, passport protect the USB stick so the information is safe. This is one of the easiest things you can do actually, just right-click the USB drive and encrypt it. Enter the password of your choice, and voila, you’re done.
3. External Hard Drive
An external drive is just a hard drive that is connected to a computer on the outside rather than on the inside.
All computers have hard drives on the inside, this little wonderful gadget allows you to transfer or store large amounts of data.
Having another duplicate hard drive that is independent of your main computer is a great insurance plan against possible computer failures.
4. Floppy Disk
Hahaha, we’re just kidding. But, back in the day, they were the primary means for saving files. At 1.5 Mb storage, you wouldn’t be able to save a single meaty Powerpoint on that diskette today.
No one uses these anymore. It’s now known as the “save” icon.
Funny thing - if you ask a kid today what that origins of the icon are, most probably couldn’t tell you. They just know it as the “save” button on their computer.
Here’s Some Inspiration For You
With the basics of file and folder naming and organization mentioned above, we thought it’d be fun to share some of the web’s most interesting, creative and organized desktops.
In each one of these desktop screenshots, you can see their personality and penchant for fun.
Now, we’re not saying that you need to get all super creative and design a desktop like these folks. But, it doesn’t hurt to inject some happiness at work...just saying.
Get Started With Small Steps
As with anything in life you want to start small and get a few small wins under your belt to get the momentum going.
It may seem overwhelming at first, but try to tackle one folder at a time.
After you have the files and that one folder renamed, you can move on to the next, and so forth.
Once you get started, you may find yourself on a roll. However, be sure to give your eyes a rest every 20 minutes to minimize eye strain.
And before you know it, you’ll have everything looking just as you want it.
It’s just like dancing - you learn by taking one step at a time.
Mc Hammer didn’t just stand up one day and do the running man/hammer dance. It was practiced and perfected over time.
VIDEO: MC Hammer - U Can't Touch This
YOUTUBE: MC HAMMER
As you work your way through your files and folders, you’ll immediately start experiencing the benefits of digital organization.
There’ll be less and less time wasted searching for files and more time getting things done. Soon enough, you’ll reach digital desktop nirvana with birds chirping, harps playing and tiny angels floating around your cubicle.
Okay, well maybe not actually, but it’ll sure feel that way.
Once you’ve conquered the digital domain and feel that you’re "2 Legit 2 Quit," then shift your focus to the real physical world of your cubicle desktop and declutter there too for less stress.