So, you are used to storing all files on your desktop and you vow that this system works?
Well, let me be honest with you: It doesn’t work.
But don’t worry, I am not here to judge. In fact, I just want to share with you the system I adopted and massively improved my workflow and productivity overall. It’s simple and you can use it too.
Let’s begin with your desktop. Instead of cramming it with as many files as you possibly can, use it as your primary organization tool. Drop that fancy hipster wallpaper — yeah, it’s a thing — and adopt a clean monochromatic one with specific categories that suit your workflow. Here’s the one I use:
This is as simple as it gets. As you drop files onto your desktop, move them across the suited category:
- New — newly added files to your workflow
- Current — files you are currently working on
- Archive — files that can be archived at the end of the day
- Permanent — files you are constantly using regardless of the project
- Misc — category for miscellaneous files, like drafts or temporary versions
The last two categories shall not be abused! I know they are the easiest categories to get out of hand, but don’t identify a file that you used in two or three projects, of the last fifteen, as a permanent file. Or else you’ll rapidly clutter your desktop again.
As for the Miscellaneous, if a certain file becomes a definitive version, just slap a «_V1.2» in the file name and archive it in the respective folder!
Now, let's talk storage!
The “My Documents” is not a storage room for all your digital clutter. Hell, no storage in your computer should even be your first choice to store files! You have iCloud or Google Drive at your disposal. Just abuse them!
They are magical places on the Internet where you can store all your files and share them with any coworker or client of yours. No more Word Docs emailed back and forth so you both can make changes.
For every project you work on, you should have a main folder that branches out into subcategories. Plan this beforehand or else you’ll end up creating way too many folders!
For instance, it took me a full day to identify the common points between the archives of four major clients of mine. After this, I drafted six organization structures and adopted the one I deemed more suited for all of those clients — and future ones as well. Here it is:
This structure allows me to rapidly access the file I am looking for, without losing any time. It is of course changeable, depending on the client, but this is the core structure. Here’s a simple break down:
- Inspiration — where I store every piece of content I regard interesting or inspiring for any further content I can produce
- Share — all the unedited materials and important information about the client I need to have access to. Clients also have access, ofc;
- Analytics — where all performance data is gathered (usually only one spreadsheet per social media platform)
- Edits — all content that is produced and ready to publish is stored in this folder, whether is video or image. The Aditional Content folder works as an archive for time-specific content
Feel free to use this structure if you find it suitable for you. I use it with Google Drive, but it can be applied with the same results on any cloud service or external hard drive you carry with you.
Last but not least, I also created a file naming rule to automatically organize loose files and assign them to their respective folder. Trust me, this one is definitely a must-have.
It consists of naming a file according to its creation date, format, origin, and product or service reference — in that specific order. Here’s an example:
Explaining, the Format tells me what type of content the file is (if it is a story, post, document, or video), as the Origin tells me if the content was captured in my studio, if it only contains the product, if it consists in branding, or if it was produced by an influencer the client partnered with.
Also, if the file belongs in the Edits folder, I’ll add a «_edit_» in between the format and the origin. The other two, are self-explanatory.
With a file naming rule, not only you’ll have your folders all tidy up, but it will also facilitate access, as you can type any part of the file’s name on the search bar to quickly find the file that you need.
This system works for me. It forces me to keep my files organized and allows for quick scan and retrieval of any needed materials. Ultimately, every project ends up following the same workflow, and that eliminates any constraints whenever I need to start a new one.