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Organizing your data and files II

When I am on projects, or even in my own life, I need order. I need to be able to find things easily, and the more information (and the few seconds you spend), renaming the folders or files to what you want, the better life will be.

I had an original post here on Organizing Data which you can read if you’d like, but it’s basically reposted here, but with new updates.

NEW! and IMPROVED! *insert shiny arrows*

STILL USE NUMBERS IN THE BEGINNING OF THE FOLDER NAMES

Everything sorts alphabetically, and it’s kind of annoying if you are on a project and you think in a sequence.

For example, folders look like this if you don’t use numbers:

Therefore, I name folders with double digit numbers at the start like this:

Sometimes if I want the folders above each other but I do not want to go through and rename everything, I simply put the same number at the top.

If you only use single digits, they will sort like this:

10.

11.

1.

2.

Rather than like this:

01.

02.

10.

11.

ALWAYS HAVE AN ARCHIVE AND/ OR AN ADMIN FOLDER

You need generic folders. You just need them.

You can name them:

_Archive

_Admin

The “_” symbol before the name, goes in priority over any numbered folder. It’s nice to put Archives or Admin stuff at the top so it’s easy to drag and disappear.

You can also use the “/” symbol

/Archive

/Admin

If you like the look of that better. And yes, even they have a hierarchy.  They would look like this, if you named the same folder with different prefix symbols:

_Archive

/Archive

HAVE A DUMPING FOLDER

I use my Desktop for this, but sometimes you need a dumping folder to keep things in the interim but not necessarily to keep it forever. So I would suggest creating a DOWNLOADS or TEMPORARY folder.

KEEP YOUR FOLDER NAMES SHORT AND SWEET

Keep them descriptive and useful, but not verbose, with acronyms if possible.

Toronto Dominion Canada Trust? Name it “##. TD

The shorter your folder names, the better it is for your file name, and you can resize the windows easily.

NEVER GO MORE THAN 4-FOLDER LEVELS DEEP

This is what a proper 3-level folder structure looks like, which is the rule you should generally follow:

1, 2, 3.

The 4th is if you REALLY need it.

But if you need a 5th folder level, then you need to create an entirely different set of folders at the first level, or find a different way of sorting it. Bring it up a level, maybe make it less specific and call it “BANKING” and dump everything in there.

I’ve been on projects with 5+ folder levels and this happens:

  • Stuff get lost in the confusion
  • People don’t bother keeping up with the system because it is too much & it descends into chaos
  • You can’t copy the folders in a backup because the SYSTEM file name is TOO LONG and it records all the 5 folder names PLUS your super long file name

ALWAYS NAME YOUR FILES SOMETHING DESCRIPTIVE

I am really after people on my project when they leave files named “Untitled” somewhere. It drives me mad. I rename all Untitled items. Even if you throw a short name in there or today’s date, ANYTHING.. it is better than “Untitled”.

NEVER LEAVE A BLANK SPACE IN FILE NAMES

Blank spaces on PCs, turn into %20, because it’s a stupid operating system that has no idea how to create a proper ‘blank space’ in a name.

It is OK for FOLDERS however, but in filenames when you go to copy or upload files, because of that %20 crap, so to avoid this, ALWAYS use underscores ” _ ” or dashes ” – ” in between parts of the name if you want to separate it out like:

FILENAMEME

I can’t tell you how many times this has caused me a headache on a project for whatever reason.

NAMING FILES LIKE BANK STATEMENTS

I generally follow this structure:

Main Category_Sub Category_Date*

*Date looks like: 

YearMonth #Month NameDay

Note that I am using ” _ ” a lot in this to be cleaner and to sort between the categories rather than dashes, which I use for dates. But the ” _ ” kind of mimics a space for me.

I use a ” ” for the date because it’s a category with sub categories (yyyy/mm/dd), and the ”  ” in between denotes that.

So let’s say you have a bank Statement from TD Bank for the 21st of January 2022. It would look like this:

TD_Statement_202201Jan21

Main Category = TD because it’s TD Bank that is the institution

Sub Category = Statement because it’s a bank statement

Year = You need to put the year in front, so it sorts by year without you doing anything

Month # = Since a month name like “JAN” sorts alphabetically, I put the month # in front like “01” to help it sort better

Month Name = This is not necessary if the Month # is enough for you, but I like looking at the month name, even if it’s redundant

Day = OPTIONAL I don’t always put this, but if there are a lot of statements in a month, I do, to separate them out

Come up with a naming system that suits you so that you’ll keep using it. Don’t make it complicated if you don’t have/want to (e.g. adding dates or month names)

HOW TO ORGANIZE FOLDERS IN GENERAL FOR YOUR LIFE

Like a budget category, it depends on what you do, so it’s quite personal.

I suggest the following folders in general:

_Backups: Back up your files, throw them all here

01. Budget: Obviously. I name and keep all my budgets by year (2012, 2013, etc).

02. Taxes: I like having folders by tax year (2012, 2013), and putting all documents in there.

03. Banking: I have folders by country and then by bank or money institution.

04. Credit Reports: I have folders by country

05. Bills and Receipts: Sometimes I keep these if they’re important.

06. Government: Anything to do with healthcare, license plates, health cards…

07. Insurance and Wills: Scanned wills, photographs of my things for insurance by year

08. Career: Resumes, interview prep notes, anything I’ve prepped for in the past

09. Education: Certificates, notes from college

10. Programs: Any program you’ve purchased and their serial numbers

All of the above only works if you actually name your files like how I mentioned above. That way, you just need ONE folder to hold multiple bank statements from different banks, and it’ll all be pre-sorted by file name without needing multiple folders.

It would look like this in one big folder, and you will be able to see the grouped bank name in a flash:

CIBC_Statement_2022-01-Jan

CIBC_Statement_2022-02-Feb

CIBC_Statement_2022-03-Mar

TD_Statement_2022-01-Jan

TD_Statement_2022-02-Feb

TD_Statement_2022-03-Mar

I usually put a short name of “Statement” or “Notice” to let me know what it is exactly, because I may receive multiple documents from the same bank in the same month.

ENJOY!

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