5 Tips for Organizing Files (on Your Computer)

This may come as a surprise, but in my college years, my laptop was drastically more organized than it is now. Perhaps because I had more incentive to be organized back then- assignments for classes, thesis, job and other post-college material, plus any random photos I wanted to save (the ‘cloud’ didn’t exist back then, after all) took up space on my desktop, so if I didn’t have some sort of organization, I’d drive myself crazy. These days, that same laptop is primarily used for random personal stuff and I’m not nearly as diligent about keeping it organized (especially since I’m not spending as much time on it as I was in college).

The good news is, at work I’m much more organized. It helps that a lot of what I work on has to get accessed by other people- I’d rather have people coming over to my house when it’s clean rather than a sloppy mess, after all. Wherever you lie on the spectrum of organization on your computer, here are 5 tips for getting rid of a cluttered desktop and files with long, weird names.

Choose a Destination. Where do you primarily want to save your stuff? Some options include directly on your desktop, in a place like Dropbox or Google Drive, a USB, etc. Choosing one location and sticking to it also helps with being able to relocate something later on. Of course, some combination of these things works as well, i.e. all photos are saved in Dropbox while your collection of satirical essays lives in a folder on your desktop. Consistency is key.

The exception to saving to multiple places is creating backups- always a good idea. Remember not to save your backup in the same place you saved the original (because that kind of defeats the purpose).

Folders and Sub-Folders. Making a folder is easy, and so is dumping documents and other materials into that folder. But if you have a really vague folder, like “Photos,” it can still be maddening to try to find anything in there. That’s where sub-folders come in handy. On my personal computer, for instance, I have a vague folder called “Bates.” Can you imagine what a mess it would be if I just put everything from my years at Bates into that folder and called it a day? Instead, when you open that folder, you see 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and Thesis (anyone who went to Bates knows that Thesis deserves its own folder).

Your folders and sub-folders are up to you: how your brain works and what type of material you are working with.You can even have a folder named “Voltron 5000” that has your child’s school pictures, as long as you’re easily able to find what you need.

File Names. Another tip for file organization is appropriately naming your documents and files. When it comes to finding a file, it doesn’t help if you have several “untitled” documents or downloads that are a 15-character series of random letters and numbers. It’s just as important to be thoughtful about how you’re naming files as how you’re storing them, from an organizational standpoint.

Clean Out Downloads Folder. If you’re cranking out work and are in the zone, chances are you’re probably saving things where it’s easiest (Desktop and/or Downloads). My recommendation, before your desktop is suddenly drowning in files, is to schedule a time at least once a week to organize these files. Move them out of Downloads to a permanent location (and no, your desktop doesn’t count). This could be a matter of putting it in the appropriate folder or moving it to the trash.

Share the System. If you’re working in a system like Dropbox and have multiple people with their hands in the pot, adding and updating files, it’s important to make sure everyone is on the same page with the system, otherwise things will get messy. Have one or two people decide on “The System” (if you try to get everyone involved there can be a lot of back and forth) with other people giving feedback will ensure you’re thinking of organization in a complete way.

Once the system is decided, post places where it is easy to see: the company’s Google Drive, a private employee-only part of the website, etc. so people can easily refer to it.

Additional Resources:

Dropbox Tips for Organizing Files 

Google Drive Tips on Organizing Files

4 Things You Can Do to Create a Perfectly Organized Google Drive

Zen and the Art of File and Folder Organization

If you’re anything like us, your computer is like your toolbox for getting things done. Cleaning it out will reward you in increased productivity, decreased headaches, and (ideally) a faster running computer.

Too Cute Tuesday: Mustache Mirrors

Mustaches on sticky paper, how much more fun did you have this Tuesday?

Mustaches on sticky paper, how much more fun did you have this Tuesday?

I am going to call this early and say 2011 is the year of the mustache in terms of pop culture America (I would have to say it’s sharing its title with bacon though). Had I planned this a little better, we honestly could have had a month of mustache related crafts.

Sue's visiting friend Amy came by and enjoyed the ridiculousness of the evening.

Sue’s visiting friend Amy came by and enjoyed the ridiculousness of the evening.

Mirror mirror in my hand, who's has the fairest 'stache in the land?

Mirror mirror in my hand, who’s has the fairest ‘stache in the land?

You may remember when we made mustache pacifiers. This last week, our friend and occasional crafter Jen hung a mustache mirror in her house so we thought we’d try to make our own after seeing them not only in her house but in several gift magazines. You know us, if we think we can make it, we’ll try!

Now you can go two routes with the mustache mirror:

1) Use etching paste in a mustache shaped stencil to create frosted mustaches. (Kind of like how we did the etched beer mugs awhile back.)

2) Use opaque, sticky paper to print the mustaches out on and stick them to the mirror (that’s what we did).

The most labor intensive thing we did was finding out which mustaches we wanted to try to recreate!

Sticky printer paper
Black Sharpie (for touch-ups)

Cocktail of the Night: Pear Brandy Sidecar (ironically, when I went to the grocery store to get the ingredients, I actually see a motorcycle with a sidecar on my way into the store!)

1. Search Google images for your mustache of choice. Concentrate on finding a shape that will work, you are going to use Photoshop or GIMP to size the image later.

Amy and Sue went with mirrored compacts while Dorrie and I did bigger scale mustaches.

Amy and Sue went with mirrored compacts while Dorrie and I did bigger scale mustaches.

2. Open your favorite image program and make the mustache the right size for your mirror. Consider the distance you’ll be holding it away from your face.

Getting that Dorrie mustache picture was a bit tricky, a behind the scenes shot.

Getting that Dorrie mustache picture was a bit tricky, a behind the scenes shot.

3. Print the mustache on the sticky paper. Cut out and stick.

Honestly, it was super easy and Amy, our guest crafter/Sue’s childhood friend kept saying ‘This is pretty ridiculous!’ and laughing the whole time.

The mustache mirror is a great tongue in cheek gift for that friend who has everything, or a fun addition to your entryway. Jen has her mirror set up so you can draw your own mustaches on it with a magic marker. However you do it, looking back at yourself with sophisticated facial hair will put a smile on your face.

Aren’t you crafty, and looking a bit more like Tom Selleck?

These Three Weeks In Business: Crashing Edition

These past three weeks, my Mac, my PC, and me have all crashed. Let me explain.

Many people think if you happen to be good at internet stuff you are also good at computers. Not so.

I am truly terrible at physical computer issues. And in the past three weeks, both of my computers have bit it.

My Mac was the first to go. I was giving a group presentation when it decided to do software updates. So I could continue with the presentation, I did a force quit. Two friends, one week, and a lot of Mac Forums reading later, I had to reinstall my operating system. I get it, if the Mac is updating its programs, let it finish. Lesson learned.

While dealing with my sad Mac, my PC (which is a desktop computer I do a lot of my work on) began acting wonky. It quit programs mid-use, stopped backing up my files with Mozy, and other nonsense. I tried the usual stuff: defragmenting, running virus scans, etc. but nothing worked. Hundreds of registry errors and a few days with a computer savvy colleague, it’s back.

Then I crashed. I was sick for a week and last Saturday, I slept until 11 am. And I’m a normally early riser. Must be all these late nights working, which I am finally going to do something about. But more on that in a minute.

Besides all the crashing, here’s what has been going on:

I got a smartphone.
I finally bit the bullet and got an Android phone. Verizon has much better coverage in my area than ATT and since I do a lot of things with Google anyway, it was a good choice for me. On a recent trip, I found I had much less anxiety when I was able to check my email once in awhile and not walk into hundreds of emails after the weekend was over. Also when I was in computer limbo, it was nice to be able to check email and keep up with what was coming in.

I turned down work.
I got an email from Elance saying someone wanted me to bid on a project. I was flattered… until I went to look at the specifics. The bid was $25/hour below my minimum hourly rate and it was a very short term project. It felt good to turn something because I didn’t need to do it but at the same time, it made me wonder how many legitimately cool projects I was missing working on, which made me realize.

I realized I needed help… and no, not that kind of help.
It’s time to hire someone. And before announcing this in a formal way, I thought a lot about the kind of person I wanted to hire and why.

What I really need help with is administrator type stuff: invoicing, answering emails, and some basic copywriting to start. That’s not to say there couldn’t be more but to be able to work on big project, I need some help taking care of the small details.

I’d love to pay someone $25-$50/hour but this is such a gamble that I have to start off much lower in terms of pay. If I take on someone else in terms of being responsible for their pay, I need to know I can make payroll. If I can’t, I’ll never sleep. Plus it’s much easier to say “Wohoo, we’re kicking butt, I can pay you more now!” than “Wow, I’m paying you too much, I need to cut your salary.” That would not go over well.

The second thing to consider is if I am going to train someone, I need someone who is going to stick around, preferably in my geographic area which is where I am and where a majority of my clients are. Downeast Maine is an expensive place to live that alternates between a busy summer season and a dead winter season. That said, I need the help year round and I can’t have someone who disappears in the summer.

And thirdly, I  need someone who is going to listen to me. Now I’m not a big ‘power’ person but I do need there to be a bit of professional distance for my first employee.

I’ve put out the call to the guidance counselors at my local high school and to a contact at the local liberal arts college. We can debate the pros and cons of high school versus college students but in terms of the trainable tech savvy person who can be happy with a part time job and stick around for a couple years, students seem to be a logical choice. But we’ll see.

When things happen like this in a business, it’s really easy to get bogged down trying to fix it all yourself. But at a certain point, it’s smart, and even just sane, to say, “Hey, I need help” and throw some money at the problem.

Have you crashed anything recently? If so, how did you uncrash it?

This Week In Business: Moving Sporadically Edition

It has been one of those weeks where everything is turning up in unexpected places (ever find a book in your fridge?) Yeah, it’s been that kind of week.

My worst idea happened Monday night when I decided to not go to bed until I fixed something. At 2 am, I decided to just look at it in the morning. Guess what? I figured it out easy the next day. But then of course, I was thrown off for the week… and there was a lot of moving to be done. And because I was so tired, some of the moving was a little sporadic.

I went to the Schoodic Chamber’s meeting to give a talk… and I was an hour early.
I headed to Winter Harbor (an hour from my house in Bar Harbor) and I got to where I was supposed to on time. Only, the door was locked and the parking lot was empty. Hmph.

I started walking around and saw a man painting his house. Thank goodness he was actually in the Chamber (I love small towns). “Doesn’t that start at 7?” I look at my cell phone: five minutes of 6. Good thing Winter Harbor is a beautiful town to kill an hour in!

My Mac died.
So I will be the first to say I don’t know nearly enough about Macs but I do know when a computer is acting weird. I combed the forums, I tried moving/deleting files, but nothing would stop the spinning beachball of death.

I brought it to the monthly Downeast Mac Users Group meeting and guess who may have messed up her computer enough to need a new hard drive? That would be me. But no worries, I have a backup computer and use Dropbox (free up to 2 Gigs) so most everything is saved. But still, a pain…

I moved my blog to Wordpress… ok Matt did but I helped.
Nine months ago, Matt began helping me move the blog part of my website over to Wordpress. But work kept coming up. Finally, this week it happened. And tonight, the whole thing officially went live on my site.

Now you won’t notice much different as we’ve kept the same design (and actually Matt is still fixing stuff). But you will notice features like better search and archives, a fun tag cloud, and some functional Wordpress plugins doing things, like detecting how users get to my site and giving them a proper greeting.

I applied to try out merchant services.
I’ve been really dragging my feet about accepting credit cards. I’ve wanted to but it’s this whole process and I didn’t want to go through the whole setup only to find one person prefers it to paying with their checking or Paypal account.

I got an email offer from Quickbooks to try their merchant services for 60 days only paying the transaction fees. I find out tomorrow whether I’ve been approved but at least I’ll get to answer my questions like “Will people use it?” and “Will I get paid quicker?” with some actual data from trying!

I think one more good night’s sleep will leave me moving a bit less sporadically tomorrow. But I’m willing to accept that some weeks have days that feel like Monday every day. This was definitely one of them! Happy almost weekend!

This Week In Business: The Galavanting Edition

This week was an unusual one for me. I had a friend visiting from London the past five days and yesterday, I flew to Baltimore for my friend’s wedding Saturday. Being on the road a lot allowed me to work on making my business a bit more mobile. Here’s a little of what I did this week besides have fun playing tourist:
I got and set up my new laptop.
After hearing so much about Macs (and the fact that about half my clients are using them), I decided the only way to get proficient with them was to get one and learn with it. My MacBook Pro is quite slick and is allowing me to begin this first draft in the lobby of my hotel while I wait for my ride to show up.

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