Third in a series on FileMAP®: File naming strategies.
The Problem of Big Data
Last week I shared a surprising statistic that framed our critical need to archive our paper and digital information: 80% of what we keep we never use again.
We’ve all heard the typical response when asking someone for information, “Just give me a minute, I can find it. It’s here somewhere…”
Maybe the 5-10 minutes the coworker spent rummaging around wasn’t a really big deal – you needed to get that cup of coffee, anyway.
But maybe the problem is much deeper and is symptomatic of an individual’s, work group’s or department’s lack of strategic information organization for paperwork, folder and digital file management.
Despite technology’s promise of a paperless society, paper usage is on the rise. And the same goes for digital file creation. Images and video files abound. Links to websites. Apps and shortcuts to apps grow and multiply like there’s no tomorrow. For the sheer, incomprehensible magnitude of this problem, check out my recent post Big Data.
So what’s a girl, or guy, to do?
Naming a Place for Everything: FileMAP®
In a perfect world, the best archiving strategies begin from the top down, an organizational strategy that leads to a departmental strategy that is further applied into work group and individual strategies.
But you don’t have to wait to get organized. Be the first one to say, “When I file it, I know where it is!”
The secret to successful information retrieval is file naming. An efficient file name is like a well-fashioned handle. You reach for it, you retrieve it.
With an efficient file naming strategy, you can assign a physical or digital location for paper or digital item you want to find in 15 seconds or less.
Yes, find anything in 15 seconds or less.
1. Separate your information, paper or digital, into Main paperwork and files and Archive files (see 80% of what we keep we never use again).
2. Further separate your Main and Archive items or files into groups based on the work process that those items or files represent.
3. Now assign names to each group of items or files based on the work process that those files represent. Sometimes the work process or work products are general, such as: annual reports, articles, budgets, contracts, financials, legal, policies, research or vendors. Sometimes the names are very specific, such as the name of an individual client or vendor.
4. File naming can also take place on two levels: the name of the container that holds the items or files, and the name of the item or file itself.
For example, here at With Time To Spare, I might organize my digital folder structure like the screen shot to the right. My Books folder, under my @Main folder, in this example has three folders, one for each book. And inside those book folders are the files that make up the book.
In this example, since the three book files are all located in Books under @Main, it would mean that I am currently working on all three of them. Once completed, I would then move them to Archive.
5. Your work processes define your file and folder names. Once you’re organize your file structures around your work processes, you are only a click or two away from any file – if you use a file and folder tool like Windows File Explorer. You might discover that the goal of 15-seconds-or-less is too generous.
Maybe you’ll enjoy the experience of finding any file or folder in 5 seconds or less.
Enjoy, learn and make your professional life a little easier.
Have you separated your files into Main and Archive? Did you give your file and folder names based on your work processes?
If you need help sorting our your file or folder naming, I’m always here to help. Contact me by email or call 719-495-7626 and I’ll be glad to speak with you.
Related Series Articles
- Post #1 – Introduction: FileMAP®: the secret to streamlined information organization
- Post #2 – Main versus Archive: 80% of what we keep we never use again
- Post #4 – Filenaming strategies: The elegance and efficiency of a shared filenaming strategy
- Post #5 – Filenaming strategies: Elusive Email Management