5 Tips for Organizing Your Digital Life

Do you dread trying to find where you saved that file to? Do your file names offer no suggestion as to what they contain?

Is the state of your downloads folder bad enough to bring a professional organizer to tears?

Have no fear! Here’s five tips (and a bonus!) for getting your computer files under control and having an organized digital life:

1. Create a naming convention

Your file names should answer as many of the classic “5 Ws” as possible. Who it’s for, from, or about, what’s inside, when it was made or last edited, where it should go, and why it should be kept if at all.

Dates, document names (ex. resume or template), people’s names, what it was made for, are all great info to include in the file name.

2. Give files descriptive names

“Resume”, “essay template”, or “recommendation letter” might cut it for now but as you update these documents or accumulate more you’re going to want dates and more information.

Same goes for photos, if you’re into photography this is a great step for around the editing process so you have an image description ready to go that’s easy to find.

3. Create dedicated folders

Knowing where exactly to find something saves time. For example, if you knew you needed to access some typed notes from a course in second year to review for an upper year class should ideally be in a folder for that topic, class, or academic year.

Of course, how you divide what files go into what folder comes down to what works best for how your brain works. Regularly move downloaded files you intend to keep into the appropriate folder.

4. Folders like nesting dolls

You may find that some folders such as “school” may become ridiculously full and once again unmanageable due to the sheer number of files you would need to sift through in order to find something.

This is when it’s time to create folders within folders. For example, you may choose to have folders for each class, term, school year, etc.

If a class folder has a lot of files you might find it handy to create folders for that class’s folder with tiles like “notes”, “practice tests”, “course info”, and “final paper”.

If you were to then need to access a file related to the final paper you would have a file pathway that goes open documents, open school/university, open BIOL 001, open Final Paper Materials, and be able to find it in a few seconds.

5. Clean out your downloads regularly

Downloads folders can become a sea of poorly named files and an epicentre for confusion and wasted time looking for something you know you saved.

Try to make a regular habit to go through and rename files you plan on keeping, moving them to the appropriate folders, then deleting the rest. I personally clear mine out once a week.

Bonus: Back it up!

Take time to save time. By saving your files to a second location ahead of time you’ll save yourself so much time and stress recovering or replacing the work you saved if you were to have a major computer issue.

A lot of people think they have to pay for cloud storage space or a bulky external drive, but that’s unnecessary in most cases.

All UVic students have access to OneDrive if they’ve signed up for their free Microsoft Office 365 accounts. I also recommend keeping backups on labelled USB storage drives since they’re pretty cheap and can be accessed if you were unable to get into an account you had stored other copies of the file on.

If it’s a major project like your thesis or term paper, consider emailing yourself a copy after every major edit just to be safe. Losing a few hours of work is way easier to recover from than losing an entire project and all related materials.

How do you like to keep your digital files organized?

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