Monday, April 21, 2014

How to Organize Your Most Commonly-Used Files

The average professional spends a total of six weeks a year looking for things! You don’t want to be part of that statistic, and having a good filing system is vital. The heart of a digital system is the "Documents" folder on the computer, where you construct a logical set of folders.

All documents are not created equal, however. Some, you will file and never access again. Some, you will use multiple times every day.

Vilfredo Pareto was an Italian economist who lived around the turn of the 20th century. Pareto observed that 80% of the wealth of Italy was held by 20% of the population, and that the remaining 80% of the population accounted for only 20% of the wealth. That observation has become known as the “Pareto Principle,” or the “80/20 Rule.” It has been applied in many circles. A salesman may likely find that 80% of his sales are made to 20% of his customers. In a school, 80% of the discipline problems generally come from about 20% of the students. Likewise, around 80% of absences in the school or workplace come from approximately 20% of the people.

All documents are not created equal, however. Some, you will file and never access again. Some, you will use multiple times every day. The application of the Pareto Principle extends to the files on your computer. Each of us has a few number of files that we use a great portion of the time. For example, the letterhead for your organization, stored digitally, is a document you use every time you compose correspondence. Do you regularly make use of a fax machine? If so, a fax cover, stored digitally is a great time-saver. The information about your organization is already there. You simply add the name and number of the recipient. As a school administrator, I used a single spreadsheet to keep me abreast of expenses and balances in various accounts. Hardly a day would go by that I didn't consult or update that spreadsheet.

All of the documents just mentioned composed “the vital few”—those few items which are in constant use. I want to have them at my fingertips. For that reason, for many years, I have maintained a folder right on my computer desktop called “Fingertip.” Inside are those few files which I use constantly. Instead of working through nested folders to access one of those documents, that set of commonly-used files is one click away.

In today's world of "cloud computing," I am a Dropbox user. Having my commonly-accessed "Fingertip" files accessible from anywhere, via Dropbox, makes sense. One quick technique allows me to have that access. I moved my Fingertip folder into Dropbox. I then created a shortcut to the Fingertip folder, and moved it to the desktop. No matter where I am, I can use Dropbox to access my Fingertip folder from my mobile devices. At my desk, a shortcut to the folder is on the desktop.

What are those few files that you use all the time? Create your own "Fingertip" folder and store them there. You will be surprised at the time you will save every day.
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