The Ultimate Guide to Digital Organization
Getting digitally organized is relatively simple and something we can all benefit from. This article will touch on six areas where I often see my clients struggling or lacking skills. If you feel you could be a little more digitally organized yourself, improving one of these six areas could enhance your own digital organization.
1.) Computer Operating System and Skills
Many people out there did not grow up with computers in hand. When this is the case, I often see frustration around fundamental operation and troubleshooting issues when using a computer. It’s vital that you first understand computer basics, know how to navigate your computer and make sure you have other essential skills in place.
What you need to know:
Watch a video on how your operating system works.
Know how to ‘right-click’ on a mouse and a trackpad.
Familiarize yourself with basic keyboard shortcuts.
Set up your computer desktop for quick and easy use.
Know how and where to change settings.
Learn to type! – Everyone needs to know how to type these days. Shoot for at least 25 words per minute.
2.) Digital Filing Cabinet
With so many free cloud services and upgrading to new devices every few years, you can easily have your electronic documents scattered in multiple places. I often see clients with duplicated documents in multiple locations. In fact, they usually have 3-6 copies of the same document and don’t know it because it’s in so many different locations. In addition, I often see duplicate folders and/or empty folders with nothing in them. If this is the case for you, don’t fret! This is more common than you may think.
It’s easy to get lost in a digital black hole when attempting to reorganize electronic files. Below are cardinal tips so you don’t get lost in digital outer space.
Decide on one digital filing cabinet to save all your electronic documents. Ideally, use a cloud service like Google Drive, OneDrive, iCloud, or Dropbox (for anyone reading this, one of these options is either already in place or easy and free to set up). Now, move ALL of your files into that location. You likely have files on your computer’s hard drive, desktop, and/or other cloud services. Moving forward, practice saving all documents to this singular location.
Saving and Naming
Be explicit in how you name your documents and folders. You should be able to read the file (or folder) name and know exactly what it is (or what’s in it, if it’s a folder) without having to open it.
Use keywords in the name that you may use when trying to find the document in the future. Remember, it may be months or years before you need this document. NEVER save a document using the name it was sent to you with, or some other irrelevant computer-generated mumbo-jumbo like: ‘scan-7654.’
Create an Organizational Chart
Sometimes it’s helpful to create an organizational chart before you begin. It’s beneficial to identify the root folders that your subfolders may be nested within. These root folders are usually broader categories of information such as – Finance, Auto, Medical, Education, etc. From there, you can have subfolders saved within those categories.
Tip: Avoid creating folders with zero or 1-2 documents in them. I often see clients who have to click through multiple subfolders only to end up in a folder with nothing in it.
Learn How to Search
This relates to understanding your operating system and how you named your files and folders. We’re human, and we’re not always going to remember where we saved something or how we organized it, especially if we have a lot of information! For this reason, learn how to search your computer and/or digital filing cabinet (this is where keywords come in handy!).
Learn to sort by:
Date last modified
Tip: Make sure you also know how to switch between these types of list views: list, icon, and preview.
You might also like: Transition from paper filing to digital filing
This is probably the area I help with the most. Again, no one ever taught us how to stay organized and tidy in this digital ‘room.’ Staying organized in your email is very similar, and closely tied to, how your digital filing cabinet is organized.
Ideally, you should be processing new emails that come in once or twice a day (Monday-Friday is sufficient for work-life balance). The only emails that should be in your inbox are new emails that are unread and emails that represent outstanding tasks that have not yet been completed!
Everything else should be deleted or filed away (moved out of the inbox). Treat your email inbox like a real-life mailbox. You don’t check the mail, open envelopes and then stuff the opened mail BACK in the mailbox – do you??!? When you open a piece of email – either throw it away, file it away, or hold on to it until you’ve done what you need to do. Make sense?
Get familiar with your email client (Outlook, Gmail, Mac Mail, etc.) and make changes to settings.
Practice ‘Inbox Zero.’
Learn productivity tips and tricks
You might also like: Will email ever go away?
4.) Your Browser
Most of us spend a lot of time surfing and working on the internet. There are a couple of browser tools that most of my clients find helpful if they are not already using them.
A browser bookmark lets you save a page you’ve visited on the internet. Don’t go hog-wild saving bookmarks – there is a skill and technique to knowing what to bookmark. Things you may want to bookmark: Facebook group pages you like to participate in, log-in pages for online accounts, online recipes you’ve tried and want to make again.
In an effort not to get too technical, read this article on what browser extensions are. Basically, they give you quick access to features of other digital programs and services you may use. If you can only have one browser extension, I’d recommend a password keeper like LastPass.
Synching your browser across all devices
If you have a preferred browser, make sure you are synching that across all your devices so you have access to all your bookmarks wherever you are. If you can, I would also set the browser you like as your default browser on all your devices.
You might also like: Browser Tips & Tricks
5.) Mobile Devices (phones / tablets / watches)
Almost anything on your computer can be accessed from your mobile devices. In my opinion, the purpose of a mobile device is to have access to everything you would on your computer while you’re away from your computer.
Things you’ll want to sync across all your devices:
Digital Filing Cabinet
I would also take the time to reorganize your mobile apps in a way that makes logical sense. At the very least, learn how to search your phone or tablets for apps, settings, and other content.
A note on smartphones
The most common thing I see with clients is that they don’t fully leverage the productivity capabilities contained in their phones. Just like your computer, it’s worthwhile to watch a short 5-10 minute video educating you on your phone’s operating system. I watch clients spend so much time being angry, frustrated, overwhelmed, and often feeling helpless because they haven’t taken a proactive approach to learning about their technology. Times are different and there are infinite resources online to help you. Google something like: “iPhone productivity tips” or “introduction to your iPhone” to learn some basics and gain a lot of confidence.
6.) Keeping Passwords
This is a special topic because it’s a huge pain point for many clients. My #1 recommendation? Stop using the same password for everything! It’s a tough transition to learn to use a password manager like LastPass, but you’ve got to do it. Ensure that you can access your password vault from all your devices – computer, phone, and tablets. You want to have them when you need them.
That’s it! This is your ultimate guide to digital organization. I hope you have found this helpful!
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