I’m obsessive-compulsive. As they say, “it’s a blessing and a curse.” When I was a teen, it was bad. I’d notice if someone moved my pencil an inch to the left, for instance. Fortunately, I’ve moved past that—for the most part. These days, it’s more blessing than curse. I still eat my Skittles by color and compulsively rearrange the dishes in the dishwasher, but you know what else I sort and reorder? My files and folders.
The goal of my organization is to create a utopia where, if I was M.I.A., anyone could find what they needed on my computer without my help. I know utopias don’t exist, digital or otherwise, but I don’t believe that should stop me. Even if I fall short of my obsessive-compulsive goal, there are still benefits to the pursuit of idealized digital asset management.
If you work with a team and share files or folders, you already know why it’s important to maintain functional organization of your stuff. Have you ever searched for something and couldn’t find it? Or found it but couldn’t tell if it was the latest version? Or found it but only after 10 minutes of frantic clicking?
When you set the standard of file and folder hierarchy, you can find stuff with accuracy, confidence and speed. No more embarrassingly sending old versions of documents! Not only will this make you more effective for your clients and customers, it will be a weight off of your team’s shoulders. Plus, it makes training new team members faster if they can walk in and understand how to navigate your system with ease.
Everyone’s system will be a little bit different because one method of folder organization will work for Company A but not for Company B. However, I have a few tips and tricks to help you develop your own system.
First stop: folders. On my laptop, I have one folder for each client. Inside each folder you’ll find subfolders based on the services we provide, such as Social Media, Web Design and Branding, plus administrative folders like Contracts. And there are even more subfolders inside of those folders. My rule is this: if you even think there may be three or more files in a particular category, make a subfolder for it. For instance, under Social Media, you may find Organic and Paid. Inside Paid, you may find 2018 and 2019. Inside 2019, you may find subfolders for three different campaigns. … You get the idea.
It’s important that the names of your (sub)folders are consistent. If for one client, you break down social media by organic vs. paid, then by year, and then by campaign, do that for every other client as well. Consistency is key for the file names as well. I typically name them something like this: EMB_Website_Blog_Cody_1-1-2020_v1.doc. It has a pyramidal structure, starting with big picture and leading to the tiny details. This is crucial when it comes to searchability. Even if I don’t remember what I named something, I can typically find it within seconds because I know how it should be named. You’re essentially creating a string of keywords that makes searching easy.
If you don’t like long file names, or you’d rather simply organize what you have currently than create an entirely new system, try tagging. No matter which operating system you have, there’s going to be some sort of tagging mechanism. Tag by color. Tag by keyword. Tag however makes the most sense to you. Then, use your computer’s search function to sort and filter.
Nothing scares me more than a cluttered desktop. It is the digital version of a rebellious teen’s bedroom floor. You may (think you) know where everything is, but it’s still a terrible idea. Sure, go ahead and toss those temporary files on there for easy reference—I have a “Quick Reference” folder myself for items I use daily—but delete or organize the temporary files as soon as you use them.
Set your rules, make sure everyone on your team is trained on those rules, and then reap the benefits of your newfound operational efficiency. That’s it! If you already have a vast server of files and folders, don’t fret. Start where you are, and rename old data as you have time or see fit. Everyone starts somewhere.
Cody H. Owens, Account Executive
Elevate My Brand