Home-based entrepreneurs know that sometimes organization can be the last item on the list, and this is especially true for one of the most essential components of the home office: your computer. Let’s get your own slice of cyberspace clutter-free. Consider adopting some of these simple rules for tidying up, saving
time, and saving sanity:
- Get smart about email retrievals – whether you use Microsoft Outlook, Gmail, Hotmail, or any number of robust email applications, you have plenty of organizational tools at your disposal. Get very savvy to three essential types of email organization: labeling & categorization, email filtering, and folders. Labels in Gmail (Categories in Outlook) are ways to sort emails according to client, type of project, personal versus business, or anything else. Filtering is a related concept, but it does the sorting for you as the mail comes in. Lastly, moving emails to different folders is the best option for easy access to key emails you’re likely to need again and again.
- Bookmarks/Favorites – Bookmarks, or favorites, are best employed judiciously and sparingly. Get those ten to fifteen sites you visit the most—particularly the ones with long URLs or which are otherwise tough to find quickly—and put them in your browser bar with the magic of the bookmark. Also, consider configuring your browser’s options such that your most-visited sites pop up in separate tabs upon startup. Why not have your top five open all at once? You’ll save time and energy.
- Folder Finesse – Be smart about how you label your files and where you put them. Create a folder hierarchy that makes sense for you. If you are a web designer, you might have a “Web Design” folder which has sub-folders dedicated to each of your clients. And inside the client folders, perhaps you have further sub-folders such as “Design files,” “Images,” and “Correspondence.” And name your folders in short, intuitive, consistent ways—they’ll be easier find with a search.
- Archive – Know when to archive material, and dedicate separate space/folders for old material you’ll probably rarely, if ever, access again. Sorting according to calendar year seems reasonable, but another system might work better for your business.
- Pending and Temporary – Maybe you’re not the type of person to immediately sort all your different documents as soon as you get them, but at the very least set aside a bit of time every two weeks to put everything in its correct cubbyhole. Until then, I find two folders to be essential: a “Pending” folder for pending business that needs relatively immediate attention, and a “Temporary” folder to store new, “unfiltered” material that needs to be sorted or dealt with.