Over Organized is not a term I use for my life and business. In fact, I’m usually looking for ways to be more organized to free up time, mental space and gain productivity. However, what is missing for most is the commitment of time to put a system in place. In interviewing Laura Leist, she gives some wonderful basic tips that will help even creative personalities gain more control of their life and schedule.
We focus on digital organization, which for today’s world that includes thousands of photos, scans, documents, videos, graphics and more is crucial. Laura calls this invisible clutter. If you have ever spent hours hunting for a particular document, photo or video you understand how important it is to have a good system in place. We will cover why systems will help you, what systems to use, how to define the best systems for you and the most crucial systems to put in place. Then, if you end up feeling over organized, I’ve done my job well!
Why Systems will Help You
Stepping over shoes and dirty clothes or facing a sink full of dirty dishes when you have something more productive to accomplish is similar to a lack of organization for digital and other files. The clutter gets in the way of doing your best work because it takes extra time, energy and resources that should be spent elsewhere.
We don’t normally think of digital files as clutter because those files are hidden away on hard drives. But with multiple hard drives, apps, documents and media files, the volume can seem larger than a huge pile of unorganized stuff sitting in your office.
A digital file system will help you access information quickly and efficiently. It doesn’t have to be a system with big name recognition. It mainly needs to be the right tool for your use and there are a lot out there. We hear constant ads from podcast hosts and others about the very best systems. Often, those are the systems that sponsor their shows so do your own homework to find what’s best for you. It also doesn’t need to cost a lot. There are many free levels for even the most pricey systems that may be sufficient.
How to Define Best Systems for You
The systems you use should be based on your goals. There is no one-size-fits all. It’s good to start by defining what types of systems you need, then do your due diligence researching the characteristics of different apps and systems. Also, with multiple apps, find out how they work together. Just as you wouldn’t walk into a pharmacy and ask for multiple medications, not knowing how different apps work together could end up wasting time with unneeded duplications.
A good place to start is to identify your biggest problem. This can be anything from forgetting passwords, losing important documents or spending way too much time hunting for a file. Make a simple list with one to three items on it to tackle first. This will help with the overwhelm.
The Most Crucial Systems to Put in Place
According to Laura, one of the most important systems to put in place is a password protection app. With compromised passwords vulnerable to hacking and the importance of emergency access to everything from bank accounts to websites, to digital files, this app should be a priority. Applications as LastPass or OnePassword are excellent and very cost-effective. They also make it easy to give access to your team for certain passwords.
Next, a digital file system with digital notebooks will make your life easier. If you are from my generation, we had to create tabs in our three-ring binders to organize subjects and projects. A digital file system will do the same thing with multiple folders and sub-folders that take the place of the tabs.
There are many systems available, but you mainly need one that will do the job and be easy for you to navigate. I focus on easy. Google drive and Google docs have worked well for me. In fact I just added the Google Photos app to save photos when I was out of room on my iCloud account. It’s very reasonable in cost for a couple dollars a month and works seamlessly with programs like Shutterfly for photo books.
Evernote and Microsoft’s One Note are also excellent programs. Find what will work best for you and your operating system across all your devices, then stick with it. I’d suggest you use a reliable program you know will be around for a long while and is secure. The last thing you need or want to do is to start over.
Another great resource is Amazon S3 to back up very large files, like sound files and videos. I use this for musicals and free downloads. It’s extremely cost-effective and gives me peace of mind with its reliability. You can create folders and subfolders. It is specific in the way you label the master folders, but the learning curve is not too difficult. Many people use Dropbox, but I find Amazon more cost-effective and extremely easy to use. There are many backup options so do your research.
One more system that is absolutely necessary is a system for organizing your finances. There are many out there and you can use something as simple as an Excel sheet or other apps like Quicken or choose from a multitude of others. Again, do your homework and be consistent. I have used several different apps and stick with the systems where I can be most consistent.
How to Purge Digital Clutter
The process of purging digital clutter is a hard one for many people, including myself. You may ask: What if I will need those notes someday? We find all sorts of reasons to hang on to files, but if they haven’t been used in three to five years, it’s probably time to toss them! However, this is an individual choice and I equate it to an article of clothing that’s hard to toss!
If you have a good, organized filing system, there is nothing wrong with keeping notes that you may access at a later time. For example, I kept the notes I took at a conference on how to start a podcast for a number of years. They came in handy when I finally launched the Women at Halftime Podcast.
The key to finding my notes was to put them in a place that made sense in locating them. With multiple hard drives, this is no easy task if you don’t have some sort of filing and labeling system. I have literally spent multiple hours looking for a particular file. Any time I waste time looking for a file, I become even more deliberate in where I place any new documents and spend a few extra moments organizing.
1-Prioritize your work. You’ve got to start.
2-Consistently make time to organize. Spending time now will pay off in saving time later.
3-Commit to consistent maintenance & make simple fixes. Laura gave the example of an office she had organized and when returning, found piles and piles of papers that merely needed shredded. The main reason why it was in array was because the shredder broke. The simple fix was to get a new shredder. But sometimes these decisions are put off until we’re overwhelmed with stacks and stacks.
My Simple Tip for Multiple Hard Drives
I have created a separate folder in my Google Drive for labeling hard drives since I have so many. I create a folder for each hard drive, then a summary of what’s backed up or included on the hard drive. I then take multiple screen shots of the contents of each one and drop those in the individual labeled folders. This saves time when I’m looking for a particular document or file as I don’t have to plug in the hard drive and hunt.
My process now is to simplify some of the contents with more specific information for easy navigation. You can go as deep as you want with these screen shots. This is easy and fast and may just be a short-term solution, but one that will work. Make sure you date the screen shots! You may have everything backed up on the cloud, but you still need a system to find your files easily!
There’s no one size fits all. Find a system that will work for you and make it simple enough that you can maintain it. Make sure you access Laura’s free tips—she has plenty of them at: Eliminate Chaos
The systems you use to organize should be based on your goals. There is no one-size-fits all.
Thought Leader, Keynote Speaker, Author
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