File clutterDo you keep your computer organized? Or do you have files in your email folders, files on the desktop, files on USB keys, files tucked in files hidden in files?

Professional organizer Deanne Kelleher has seen it all before, and blames our disorganization for the headaches caused when we can’t find a file. Who wants to admit to the client on the phone that you’re frantically searching for the file being discussed, and you can’t find it?

Deanne’s advice at a meeting of IABC/Toronto’s Professional Independent Communicators boils down to three points:

  1. Group like items.
    Pull in all those files on the desktop and tucked away in email and on USB keys and put them in the same location. For instance, a folder named “Clients” might have sub-folders for prospective, current active and recent customers.
  2. Create naming conventions, write them down and stick to them.
    Decide what categories you need to capture in the name (date, brand, model and so on). Work from the general to the specific and use an underscore for clear definition between words (division_department_workorder_number). Document the process in an operations manual.
  3. Don’t “over folder.”
    Keep the quantity of folders down.

While much of Deanne’s advice was specific to the PC world, she suggested that Mac users could be more organized, too, rather than relying too much on the Mac’s handy “spotlight” search feature. And for both groups, remember to regularly back up your files!

As for the ever-growing problem of email overload, Deanne’s tips included:

  • Schedule dealing with email into your day.
  • Have a system that assigns mail to folders.
  • Create similar folder names in your in-box and filing cabinets for easy retrieval.
  • Create a “to read” folder and a “throw this out but not yet” folder.
  • Speed reading and skimming are helpful.

While Deanne is all about being organized, she encouraged the group to customize what we do with our files to how we work. “Rigidity is not a healthy place to live,” she said.

 Photo credit: Michal Marcol and