Welcome to Day 3 of the 5-Day Digital organization Challenge. If you haven’t yet, are sure to set up your Sidebar Favorites from Day 2. They’ll be handy as you work through the rest of the challenge.
This challenge is all about removing Time Squanders — those 5-10 minute activities that don’t seem like much at the time but add up to 1.5 hours a day or more every single day. Day 1 and Day 2 gave you tips to make your digital organization life easier, and it will be the same with Day 3, though it might not seem like it at first.
Give Your Files, Notes, and Photos A Good Name
The most common question we get about digital organization goes something like this:
”What’s the best folder structure to use for my information to keep it organized?”
An organization structure is helpful, and (spoiler alert) we’ll be talking about that later in the challenge, but it is not the most powerful thing, in our opinion.
In our opinion, having a good name is the MOST important part of any organization system!
- Having a good name means you can search to find it later, no matter where you’ve saved it.
- When you’re looking at a list of items, you can see right away what it is. You don’t need to open things up or flip through previews.
As you can see, having a good name can forgive a multitude of organizational sins, and the better you name something, the less work you need to do later to organize.
Naming an item takes 2 seconds at the most, but it can save you huge amounts of time later when you need to find the item — a no-lose productivity investment.
How To Give A Good Name
Back in 2011, I went to San Francisco and attended the very first Evernote conference. One of the speakers was friend-of-Asian Efficiency and former Evernote employee Brett Kelly.
He was talking about naming Evernote notes, but he said something that has stuck with me ever since:
When you are giving something a name, you want to think of your future you.
Think about it: when you are naming something, you know what it is (after all, you’re the one saving it). But how about in a year? In 2 years? In five years? Are you going to know what Apple Receipt or Meeting Notes is?
When you’re naming something, you want to think, “What are some words that I might use to look for this in the future?”
Don’t be afraid to use a long name. Even four words is great — whatever you need to use to make it clear to you in the future what it is. The extra second will pay off for years to come.
Another tip: we like to start our names with a date. Yes, your platform will probably have a “Created Date” or a “Modified Date,” but we like to have it right in the name. This is the most future-proof and straightforward solution, and as a bonus, your items will be naturally sorted by date.
Some Naming Examples
Let’s say we have a bank statement for April 2021 for our Citibank Joint account.
We could start with the date:
- 2021-04-30, or
- 20210430, or
- 2021-04, or
You can see there are several ways you could write the date. It doesn’t matter which one you choose — it is 100% up to you — the important part is that you are consistent.
Then we could think to ourselves, “what would I use to look for this?” Probably “Citibank Joint Account”.
So in the end, the name would be:
2021-04-30 Citibank Joint Account.pdf”
You will want to have a standardized client or vendor name in your invoice, so you can jump to it, no matter where it lives.
2021-04-30 XYZCorp Invoice.pdf
Similar deal with meeting notes. An Operations Meeting notes today could be:
2021-05-05 Operations Meeting Notes
If your meeting was about something major, you could enhance it:
2021-05-05 Operations Meeting Notes Ecommerce Project
If your meeting was with or about a client, you would want that client name in there:
2021-05-05 XYZCorp Status Meeting
You will want to have things like location and a simple description in there. Something like:
2020-09-08 Revelstoke Vacation Halfway Hot Springs
If you have many photos from that event, you can get away with just having numbers at the end. No need to go overly crazy individually naming each one.
You Can Use Your Name Anywhere
The best part of a simple naming convention is that you can use it anywhere: with your files on your computer or mobile device, with notes in your note-taking app, or with photos. You aren’t tied to one system’s way of doing things.
- Go to your Dropzone that you created on Day 1. Do you have any items there? Use your new naming convention to give them a simple, descriptive name.
- If your Dropzone is empty, find some recent files, notes, or photos from the last day or two and give them your new name.
- Let us know in the comments when you’re done, and share some examples of your new naming convention.
Want some extra help? Register here for our FREE training on organizing your files, notes, and photos the right way. We’ll include strategies, tools, and extra examples. So make sure to register today.