Manage Your Digital Information More Efficiently
Everyone feels information overload. It’s not just that there’s so much information available on the internet—it’s all the files we save to our computers and devices. In 2020, the average number of emails a person receives per day at work was 120, and the average number of emails sent at work was 40 per day.
We save information because it’s “important now” to us or because we think it will be “important later.” As a small business owner, you have to manage both “important now” and “important later” information in two contexts: information to be shared with your employees, clients, and partners on a server or in the cloud or via email and other platforms, as well as personal information files that only you see. By personal, I don’t mean only your private life information, though that’s definitely part of it. There are work files that only you need to access.
The number of files and emails that we accumulate can lead us to feeling as if we’re drowning in data. So, let’s go through some simple strategies that can help you start to manage digital information more efficiently.
Create a file management system
Many people manage digital files and emails the same way they manage paper information: piling. They receive a letter or a document and place it in a pile. If they’re organized, they have an incoming pile and regularly move paper from the incoming pile to physical folders. Whiles piles are useful for managing most paper we receive, the sheer number of digital files we have make a simple system of piles less effective for digital information.
An effective file management system has these basic qualities.
- Easy to use and learn
- Scalable—it can accommodate your growing volume of files as you add more content over time
- Flexible—you can use it for different purposes or in different contexts (shared files on a server or cloud as well as your own personal files)
- Secure—protects your information from anyone who doesn’t have permission to access your information
Navigating is faster than search
The process of looking for a specific file and following a pre-defined route through your folder structure is navigation. If you have no idea where to find a file, or maybe you don’t remember exactly what you named the file, you can use the search function to surface likely candidates for the information you seek. But this is hit or miss, and that’s where search can take much longer than navigating through a system of clearly defined folders.
File names, labels, and tags
When naming your files, using specific, detailed file names will help you identify the information you’re searching for. Incorporating the date can also be a huge help in organizing types of documents that recur over time.
Tags and labels can help when you use search. A tag is simply a keyword that you assign to a file to help you find that file later. The useful thing about tags is you can use them to cross-reference a group of documents that may be saved in different folders. A label is a visual way to identify and prioritize the content of your files. Color coding is one example of a file label.
One file system for all
If you share work across a team, everyone should follow the file naming and organization system. It can be a big transition for some to remember to use certain conventions if they’ve been doing things a different way. Try to make learning the new system a fun team event, and follow up with refresher sessions as needed.
It’s more work upfront to maintain a file organization system rather than relying on piling documents. However, you’ll save time in the future when you’re looking for information and you’ll make collaboration among your team members much smoother.
If you would like to learn more about how this might apply to your business, let’s talk: