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Conquer Electronic Clutter

As Published In Smead Organomics
Conquer Electronic Clutter

Publicity -- Smead Organomics

Even though the paperless office is still a long way off, setting up a system for organizing electronic files is extremely important. When you lack an efficient method for non-paper items, it all becomes become virtual clutter — however, organizing electronic files isn’t as complicated as it seems.

Mirror Your Paper Files

When organizing paper files, the rule is to start with a broad category that you can break into sub-categories — the same is true of electronic data. With online banking, create a main folder called “Finances,” then sub-folders for each account’s statements. If you have a business, try a main folder called “Clients,” sub-folders for each — then individual files for billing statements, project notes, and e-mail communications.

Create A Naming Convention

When you store multiple drafts of the same item, a clear way of naming documents will tell you which version you’re looking at (without your having to open the file). Instead of calling the file “Johnson_Proposal,” name it “Johnson_Proposal_6-8-08” — signifying the date of the last edit. If several people are working on the same document, include a name or initials at the end so you know who made those updates — “Johnson_Proposal_6-8-08_RFC.” As an added bonus, your files will be in alphabetical then numeric order when you search for them.

Avoid The Urge To Print

Many people defeat the whole idea of “paperless” by automatically printing every e-mail, memo, and electronic document they receive. If you don’t have a good reason for a hard copy, don’t create one — save it on your computer and refer back electronically.

Clean Out Regularly

Just like paper files, it’s easy for electronic folders to become overstuffed. Once or twice a year, go through your computer files and purge anything that’s become outdated, obsolete, or irrelevant to your life. Also ask yourself “why” before you save a document in the first place — especially e-mail. If you can’t envision a logical and feasible reason for referring back to it in the future, let it go.

Back Up Regularly

It goes without saying that when you store important information on your computer, you need a back up. At least once a week, save all your files to an external hard drive or online backup service — don’t forget the data in your contact manager, bookkeeping program, web browser, and any other software you use regularly. This way, if your computer crashes or something happens to your physical equipment, you always have a copy to fall back on.

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Ramona Creel is an award-winning 15-year veteran organizer and member of the National Association Of Professional Organizers. As well as having birthed “The A-To-Z Of Getting Organized,” Ramona is also the author of “The Professional Organizer’s Bible: A Slightly Irreverent And Completely Unorthodox Guide For Turning Clutter Into A Career”—and the creator of more than 200 “quick-start” business tools and templates for use by productivity professionals. She writes seven different blogs, has worked with hundreds of clients, and has delivered scores of presentations on getting organized. Ramona resides on the roads of America as a full-time RVer—living and working in a 29-foot Airstream. Learn more at and

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