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As seen in the Dayton Daily News on December 7, 2019

I received an email from a man who needed help organizing his digital files. His search function capability was no longer helpful because of the amount of files he had to manage, plus his inconsistent file names. 

Due to my schedule, we did our training over the phone.  I asked him to have a pen and notebook ready for our call. We were going to talk through his digital filing system before powering up his computer to implement it. This way he could make changes easily as we talked through a system that would work for him. Seeing his digital filing system on paper makes it easier to create and manage files on his computer.

Whenever I work with someone on their digital organizing, I take them back to what filing looks like in a paper system so they can see that computer filing uses the same concept. I asked him to mentally think of his computer as a filing cabinet, and picture it having drawers containing hanging files that hold manila folders.

To start, we needed to talk through what his main filing ‘drawers’ would look like. I discovered he is a photographer who works with businesses and individuals. With this information, we started by naming four file names: Business Clients, Individual Clients, Personal (for his own photo collection) and Business Management. The last category would be a place to store all the files needed to run his business.

Upon further discussion, I discovered he likes to categorize his photos by name and date. On his paper under the heading ‘Business Clients,’ I had him write down a few of his business client names. These client filenames act as a hanging file like in a paper filing system.

Now for the manila file names. After each business name, he was to write down the date the photos were taken starting with the year. Let’s pretend my company is one of his clients. Under the filename Forte Organizers, the filename would look like this: 2019 Dec 6 Forte Organizers. Any photos he took for us that day would reside in this folder.

Using this example, if he needed to get to Forte’s photo shoot on Dec 6, he would click on the filename Business Clients, then Forte Organizers, then 2019 Dec 6 Forte Organizers.

Under the ‘Individual Clients’ heading, he would use the person’s name to identify the files. For example, use the file name David Smith or Smith, David. David’s photos would be labeled under his filename: 2019 Nov 12 David Smith. Let’s say next year he takes head shots for David on March 23. Those photos would also be stored under David’s name labeled: 2020 Mar 23 David Smith Head Shots.

His personal photo collection filenames might look like this: 2019 Aug 20 Leah’s first birthday, or a broader name like 2019 Aug Family Photos.

Business management could have file names like Marketing, Networking, Client Contracts. Each having their own individual files.

Whenever you’re creating a digital filing system, start by thinking through your system using pen and paper. This way you can see the basic framework of your system and make necessary changes before creating files on your computer.

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