File organisation on a computer is a pain. Going up and down directory hierarchies to find the right folder, then going backwards again if your machine prompts you to load a file from the location you last saved something in.

Back at McKinsey, one senior partner had a different paper filing system from everyone else: simply plop everything in chronologically: mixing up different projects, personal and work, etc. The arguments: it saves a lot of time to put things away, and a calendar timeline is actually a pretty good access mechanism for your stuff. (‘Where is that presentation I made 3 weeks ago?”) .

More and more, I go to a one directory workflow. The one directory usually ends up being the default downloads folder:

  • Save and load everything in one folder

  • Don’t bother naming images, look them up by thumbnails, if you can’t find them, search for a similar one online

  • Once in a while, go through the folder and put the most important things away properly:

    • Most work files expire: that version 29 you were so keen on saving in order to roll back to it, is no longer relevant by version 37. After returning from holiday, the hotel and car reservations are not needed anymore. All can be deleted safely. (That is the reason that the few bits of paper that are still floating around in my office first go in the “buffer box” before filing, usually the archive problem solves itself after 2 months)

    • There are exceptions: for my app source code: I need to be careful not to cause a massive corruption. Family photos, medical files, contracts, they go somewhere properly.

  • Use gmail search as your archiving index:

    • You can find when that meeting or call was, and pull up the required document

    • A true ‘commit’ of a document is usually not the version you save and call '“final final”, it is the one you deemed good enough to send to someone.

Photo by Mr Cup / Fabien Barral on Unsplash

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