How I Organize My Files & Photos

How I Organize My Files & Photos

Lost and disorganized files are the worst!

It never fails that the minute you are determined to be focused and get serious about a project, the files you need on are no where to be found. This is doubly true when you're in a hurry!

It's one of my biggest pet peeves to waste time sorting through emails, folders, and notes for the information I need. 

If you're a creative type, chances are you struggle with this too. 

But it's so essential to our success and sanity to have a sense of order in our work. Especially because when you're really disorganized, sometimes by the time you've found what you need, the creative energy is just gone. 

I've gotten a little better about keeping things in order but it's an ongoing process for sure. Here's some of the things that has been helpful to me in keeping those files organized!


A System & A Place

Just like with paper clutter, there needs to be a place for everything and then a system for keeping it maintained. 

Finding a place for everything is pretty simple. Instead of buying cute containers and binders like with paper clutter, all you have to do is name your folders in a way that works for you.

The system is also straightforward but it takes some self discipline...

1. NAME your files well. 

2. PUT THEM AWAY where they go.  

Easy right? Eh not so much. 

If it was easy, we would all have perfectly organized computers instead of desktops that are covered in tons of files that look like this... il_570xN.1515513527_98eg.jpg and folders that look like this...

Disorganized files and photos


How To Make File Organization Easier 

1. The Naming Process

This is sometimes the hardest part because it takes a bit of decision making to figure out what to name the file. But make it a habit to always (ALWAYS!) name your files right immediately. It takes a few extra minutes but it will save you headaches in the future.

My suggestion is to describe in 2-3 words what is actually in the photo or file separated by dashes. Some examples: Palm-Tree-Closeup.jpg or House-Cleaning-Printable.pdf. 

This is especially important for SEO keywords if you plan to upload those photos to your website. Or if you're in a hurry and just need to type in your computer's search bar, usually it will get pulled up quickly.


2. The Hierarchy of the Files

The next big decision is how to group your files so they'll be easy to find. I like to organize my files into zones or major facets of life/business. Then break these up into smaller subcategories. The key for me though is to try not to go more than four or five folders deep so I'm not eternally clicking to get to the right folder. 

Photo Example: Family Photos / 2010 / 08-2010 / Micah's Newborn Photos

Doc Example: Laurie Cosgrove Design / Templates / Holiday / Christmas / Be Merry

How I organized my files - file hierarchy


3. The Current Projects Folder 

This little tip has saved me from becoming out of control disorganized. There are many times when I'm trying to work quickly or honestly just too lazy to go find the right folder to put everything away.

To solve this problem, I added a folder on my desktop labeled 'Current Projects'. I save everything I'm currently working on for the month inside - including downloads, images, design files, etc. Everything is easy to access and open quickly. Then at the end of the month, I clear it out and put things in the right folders to back up. 

Using a current projects folder to keep files organized


4. Monthly File Declutter

Add a reminder to your schedule once a month to clean up your files. For me that means I clear out my current projects and downloads folder. I also transfer files/photos off my iPhone & iPad.

Then I can back them up on an external hard drive, in cloud storage, and send my favorite recent photos to be printed. This sounds like a lot, but it only takes about 15 minutes tops once you get the hang of it.


5. Become A Minimalist

It makes sense that if there are less files to sort through, you'll find things faster. So get in the habit of immediately deleting files after you're done using them. Or immediately deleting excess images like those that are blurry and only saving the very best ones. If this is hard, ask yourself would I share or print this photo today? Then it's not useful - delete it! 

Another great habit is to to clear out your downloads folder and clear off your desktop at the end of EVERY work day. It takes two seconds but then you won't have to open everything up to see what it is later.

Also, if there are less places where you are looking for files, the more quickly you can find them. So instead of experimenting with every trendy app, try to stick to just ONE app for all your documents and notes. Like google docs or the notes app. (It's helpful to choose one that syncs across all devices.)

 Ready to Get Your Chaotic Files in Order?

Start easy! Choose a week to get started on file organization and just do 15-30 minutes a day. A little at a time goes a long way. If you have multiple computers or devices, it helps to pick a hub - choose ONE place to put all of the files starting out.

I used an external hard drive and just transferred everything there to sort. Then I could decide what was necessary to keep on my desktop and laptop computers. It was shocking to see how much faster everything ran when the extra files were cleared away.

You can also use the Organize Me chart from this post to help you break down the steps. If you're already subscribed to the list, you can get it free through the Free Resource Library

Happy sorting! xo, Laurie

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