What if there was a way to have freedom from the tyrant in your mind, to actually organise your digital files … and keep them that way? Imagine being able to find what you are looking and spend your time enjoying what you create.

Organisational Freedom : Simple strategy to organise digital files

It sounds like polar opposites to have organisational freedom. The very word organisation may make you cringe as you start to take stock of what you don’t have organised right now. And freedom would come from not thinking about it. ‘Out of sight, out of mind‘ so to speak.

The problem doesn’t go away.

Next time you sit down at your computer to get into your latest project, you get distracted looking for files. You spend your time sorting some things, not really getting anywhere and finishing disheartened. By now you are asking yourself why you bother, as at this rate you don’t see yourself finishing that project any time soon.

# Tip: The secret to organisational freedom is to keep it simple.

  • Computer
  • Hard drive
  • Pen + paper
  • Cuppa or glass of water
  • Great music

When I set out earlier this year on a giant clean up of my computer, I took time to see how things were currently set up and made a note of what wasn’t working for me. I also reflected on how I work and would like to work.

Being a graphic designer for a long time now I have a process to the way I work that enables me to find my files with ease, at least for my clients work and my photos. I like to import my photos in year > month > date format, keeping chronological order. I’m a bit like that car mechanic or builder that just doesn’t seem to be able to get around to their own stuff.

As I looked over the remainder of my hard drive contents, I realized I had plenty of files that I no longer used or needed. Files that were long out of date. Or simply that I’m no longer interested in using.

It was time to purge those files.

There was no point sorting and organising files I no longer needed.

I also found that the way I worked had changed. This meant that how my files were sorted, well, it was a bit of a mess. I knew I was taking longer to find some things than it should and especially longer than I liked.

It was time for a clean up and realignment. I wanted to organise my files to suit my evolved and simplified workflow.

Over time, just like your style, your workflow and organisational preferences change. Recognising the shift and embracing the new can be freeing, both to your mind and your creativity.

Rather than following someone else’s system of organisation, only to find you can’t stick to it, I want to help you create a process that works for you. A system that is easy to do and one that you can maintain.

Not only is it easy to set up and maintain you won’t need to spend hours tagging files or spending money your would rather have for crafting supplies, on special organising software.

Let’s start designing your super simple, custom system to organise digital files.

3 steps to organise your digital files, so you can keep them that way!

Step 1: Back up your files

Before you start moving any files about, back up your files, just as they are. Make sure you are able to access them at a later stage should you need to.

# Tip: See my Back Up article to download a simple Back Up checklist and have peace of mind.

There are two main ways of storing your files.

  • One is that you can use an online service. This is a great one step solution to not only having a back up but also one that is in a remote location.
  • The other is simply to use an external hard drive. You may want to do a second copy of the really important stuff onto another hard drive to store at a remote location, like at a family or friends place.

With your files backed up, in case you accidentally deleted something or find you need them later, you are ready to dive in and organise your digital files.

Step 2: Set up a new folder structure

When cleaning up a closet it is so much easier to take everything out, sort though what you want to keep and only put back those items you need + love. This is the same approach you will use to organise digital files.

Take a look around you computer or hard drive and make a note of what works and what doesn’t.

You may even want to sketch out your new folder structure. Drawing out you plan is a great way to think visually and can help you create the new folders on your hard drive easier.

With your plan in place, it’s time to set up a new folder structure on your hard drive. By starting fresh you can easily change the old way that wasn’t working and merge like folders together.

For example: instead of having folders of store names where you buy your crafting supplies, and inside each of these you find you have the same list of subfolders, such as paper, brushes + templates. You might like to change your system to have file types instead, such as papers, brushes, templates and so on, so you can see all the different papers you have. It may even give you some new creative ideas seeing similar product types together.

We will take a look at how to rename those files quickly in the next step, so you can keep track of where you have bought products from.

Step 3: Moving in your files

With your new folder structure set up you are now ready to move your exisiting files back in, but only the ones you will use. Leave maybes behind. With having a back up you can always retrieve something you later find you need.

Grab a cuppa and put on your favourite music. It’s time to move into your newly refurbished place.

Moving in your files is a two step process:

  • The first part is easy, simply moving the old files into their new folders. Again only the only you know you need + love. Just like your closet.
  • The second is if you find that you’d like to rename files. This step helps you to simplify your organisation as I mentioned above with the digital craft supplies.

I use an app called NameChanger on my Mac. By simply dragging all the selected file onto the open window, selecting my option and typing in the change, I can change a whole bunch of files at once, a real time saver.

Using a renaming app makes it easy to add a prefix to your digital graphics files and even add locations or event to your photos. You may like to buy products from different places and adding a prefix to the front of the file name means you can put all your papers in one folder knowing that you will always know where they came from.

# Tip: When you buy my products I do that for you. Each file will have JES at the front so that no matter how you organise your files you will know that they come from my store.

Adding a location to your photo folders and/or file names from a holiday means you can find them in a few seconds with your computer’s search feature.

Finish touches

Hold onto your old remaining files as long as you feel is necessary to determine if you no longer want or need the files. You may like to move them to an external hard drive and free up that space on your computer.

# TIP: Make time to do a tidy up regularly to keep your files in order.

With all your needed + loved files moved in you are ready to enjoy your new found freedom + are ready for an awesome + productive creative time ahead!

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