systems

How to Manage and Organise your Digital Files

It’s so easy to download digital files. You have a bunch of them. PDFs, fonts, recordings… They’re all sitting in your downloads folder. In a mess. You don’t really look at them, or learn anything from them really. Because they’re just sitting there. In a mess.

And worse still, you can’t find ANYTHING on this dang folder. What name did you name that file? Where is it really? HOW DO I FIND ANYTHING HERE?

You’re not alone. Digital files get crazy really quickly. But you already know what you need… Systems!

Putting a system in place can be a pain in the butt, but once that’s up and running, you get peace of mind foreverrrrrrr (not really, but seriously, once you’re done it’s like you’re sitting by the beach with your shades and a summery drink).

But this system doesn’t take much more than 20 minutes - though it does depend on how many files you have dumped in the “main folder of chaos” now.

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Google Drive vs Dropbox vs other?

First, let’s determine where you’re saving things on. If you’re not on any cloud storage system yet, get on it! Because then you’ll only need to organise ONCE but get managed systems on both your cloud and your computer. Now, doesn’t that sound nice?

I’m not mentioning Amazon Web Services simply because I prefer cloud services that also offer an archiving function - that allows me double protection should I lose my files in the cloud or on my computer.

I was on Dropbox for ages before I switched to Google Drive, and frankly, there was nothing quite wrong with it. I loved Dropbox and the ease of it all, but the costs were quickly mounting up. I paid $9.99 for the basic plan, then an extra $4.99 for an extended archiving function (so I can reverse deleted files if necessary), and then if I wanted to sync to my computer without taking up space I had to top up again for that functionality.

So me switching to Google Drive was really an issue of cost, I didn’t love the Google Drive look, but I was already on GSuite and was paying $5 a month for my email. A quick researched showed that GSuite Business allowed archiving and also had a new app called Drive File Stream, which allowed me to see my files on my computer without taking up hard disk space!

That was only $10 a month for everything. SOLD.

As computers are moving to flash storage nowadays, storage is getting pricier. So I like to keep my computer as “empty” as possible, while still backing up everything.

Once you’ve decided what works best for you, it’s time to get your systems set up!

If you want to see a walkthrough of my entire Google Drive, sign up below for the video:

Foundation Files

I like to start with what I call foundation files. These are the folders that will work for anybody. So you can just take these and implement right now.

My highest level foundation files are:

  • Personal (I file this under Kara-Anne)

  • Work (I file this under The Petite Co.)

  • To Sort

Easy, right? Then in each of these foundation files, I have more of them.

In Personal, I have:

  • Books

  • Faith

  • Notes and Documents

  • Fitness

  • Photos

  • Travel

Think about the main categories of your life. Most people will have similar folders as I do, especially the Photos and Notes and Documents ones. I file important documents, scanned and all, into the Notes and Documents folder. You can create further sub-folders if you need to, or name it “Tax Documents” or “Financial Documents” if that is more pertinent.

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Remember, the crux is to always name it the most basic name possible. Don’t try to create some fancy, creative, or nice-sounding name. Always use terms you can always search for quickly.

In Work, I have:

  • Admin Documents

  • Business (Internal stuff)

  • Client Work

  • Learning

  • Resources

BusinessFolder.png

These should work for pretty much any kind of business, maybe tweaking the “Client Work” to “Products” if you are a product-based business.

At this point, you are pretty much set. I go through my “To Sort” folder every week and dump them into each general file, if I’m lazy. Just open two separate windows and drag them, easy peasy. If you have a LOT, you can first start with the files you want to delete, then work on sorting them.

If you want to see a walkthrough of my entire Google Drive, sign up below for the video!

Personalising the sub-folders

To really get those foundation files sorted (though those will have provided you with a MUCH neater space already), this is where the personalisation comes in. We all section things differently in our heads, so I don’t want to limit you with using just my system. This is just for reference.

In each foundation file, I have sub-folders that help me further divide down the crazy amount of files. This will ensure I always find what I need, quickly. Though having a ton of sub-folders can be a pain (you have to click into a folder of a folder of a folder), keep in mind that you will save back the time just by always knowing where the things are! But as a quick rule of thumb, I don’t usually create more than 3 layers of sub-folders if I can help it.

This is an example of the sub-folders in my Personal > Notes and Documents folder, there are no more sub-folders inside these:

PersonalSubFolders.png

In my Work folders, there tends to be more layers of sub-folders. For example, I classify the information inside most folders by year. So for Admin Documents, there will be a sub-folder layer of 2018, and then Archived. I usually move all previous years to Archives.

In my Business (internal) folder, there is a further sub-folder after the years. Inside 2018, for example, I will have folders like these:

InternalOpsFolder.png

In my Learning Folder, I classify according to the people or course the resource is from. If I don’t have a significant number of resources from one same source, I will just file it under Miscellaneous. You can also try filing according to category (like Marketing etc.).

Lastly, in my Resources Folder, I classify according to type:

ResourcesFolder.png

Come up with a system that works for you and your brain - whether that’s by category or type, or by year, or even months. Start with more general sub-folders, then detail them further if you find that the folders still get messy or you can’t find something.

If you want to go a step further, you can even colour code the folders according to your planner or your email labels. But that’s another crazy organisation ninja post of its own.

If you want to see a walkthrough of my entire Google Drive, sign up below for the video!


Now your turn:

Are you a messy filer or a type A one? How do you organise your files? Let me know how this goes!


3 ways to generate good ideas when you don't feel creative

I wrote a post last month about having too many ideas… But sometimes, this problem is flipped on its head. You have a problem that you’re trying to solve, and you just can’t come up with an idea to solve it.

Thankfully, there are ways to help you shake things up and wake up your creativity so you can find more solutions, all the time.

I have found that very often with business owners, it’s easy to always have a new idea, but it’s hard to generate ideas and solutions for problems we already have or to improve the current process, content or product. It’s easy to chase the next shiny object, but truth be told, we all know that there are things we are avoiding in our current business. What we don’t know is that these are things we can creatively solve with a few simple tips.

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Have you heard of Design Thinking? It is a method designers use to come up with ideas and develop solutions. But this method is applicable to all kinds of businesses, and it is a concept I learned about and loved from Creative Confidence. It’s one of my favourite books ever!

Empathising and researching the process

You start by putting yourself in the user’s shoes. Who is experiencing this product, service or content? Can you find out more about them and how they interact with the product, service or content? Do you see any other linked issues that led to the problem arising? Are they other things in play?

By user research and actually experiencing what the process is like for the end-user, you get more information about the actual problem, and not the assumed issues that sometimes blind us from making something better.

Then you can start to pinpoint where the actual problems lie, and what are the other factors that interplay with it.

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Quickfire ideas

I like to call the second part of design thinking the “quickfire process.” As you can see, I’ve made Design Thinking my own, just a little bit.

After you accurately pinpoint the problem and factors at play, you can start thinking of a lot of wild and crazy ways to solve the problem. In the book, they encourage you to think outside the box. Don’t consider whether the solution is realistic or not, such as budget and team constraints, but rather, ideate to come up with the most elegant and fun of solutions. Anything goes!

For me, this is a lot of fun and forces me to break free from my nerd instincts that just want to be practical. Practicality can limit a lot of our creativity. So don’t yet think of the consequences, just focus on coming up with as many ideas as quickly as possible.

Some of the best ideas are crazy ideas

Now, go through the ideas you have. Pick out some of the wildest, most expensive or dreamiest solutions. And then break it down into sections. How can this be done (with no budget or time constraints)?

You might think, this is a crazy waste of time! But it isn’t. Some of the best ideas were crazy to begin with, and sometimes, we limit ourselves before truly finding out the possibility of an idea.

The Mad Hatter: Have I gone mad?
Alice: I'm afraid so. You're entirely bonkers. But I'll tell you a secret. All the best people are.

Through this process, you can trigger your imagination and creativity, and perhaps find solutions that you never thought were possible before! In fact, if you wanted to, you can go one step further and find the cheapest ways to prototype the idea you came up with. It doesn’t have to be a working prototype, following the Design Thinking method, you can refine this as you go, you just have to see step by step how feasible it is to make these ideas happen.


So tell me:

Are you having a creative block? Did you try this exercise? I wanna know the scoop!