Friday, October 04, 2013

Organizational Tip #4 - Choosing a File Naming Convention

Last week I talked about how to organize files into folders on your computer. This process is helpful because it groups documents for the same subject together for faster retrieval later. Wasting time searching for a specific file is not something anyone wants to do. 

Today I want to mention the importance of file naming conventions. No matter how many files you have in a folder, if the names do not represent the data inside you will still waste time looking for documents. To avoid this, decide on a naming convention and apply it to all of your files as you create them. 

There are many different naming conventions and different ones will appeal to you. Listed below are a few examples to show the different ways you can use naming conventions to help organize your files. 

If you were a coach, you might name files starting with player name, then practice week, then file contents and file type. This could look like johnsmith.week3.practice.doc. Using this same information, if you prefer to sort by week rather than by player, you would probably employ this naming convention:   week3.johnsmith.practice.doc. You could also decide to put practice first.  This would sort by content type allowing you to differentiate between other documents given to players. 

The idea is to put whatever you want to sort by first in the file name for your naming convention.  If you worked at a restaurant and were in charge of inventory you might choose to create files like:  inventory.silverware.xls, inventory.serving.xls, inventory.glassware.xls,  inventory.linens.xls, and inventory.servingutensils.xls.  As you can see here you are sorting by inventory so you could have other documents like price sheets, order sheets, templates and more and still quickly locate your inventory files. 

One last example of a naming convention would be for anyone who regularly fills out reports. If you have weekly, monthy, or quarterly reports it is easy to get overwhelmed by how quickly they accumulate. Try saving the file based on report # or name, then week / month / quarter then file type. So an example would be monthlyreconciliation.may2013.doc. Or if you prefer to sort your files by date save the file as may2013.monthlyreconciliation.doc or even 2013.05.monthlyreconciliation.doc. The possibilities are endless, but choose something that works for you and your data. 

Once you decide on a naming convention it is important to always use it so your files are easy to navigate and organize. Any naming convention will work, just decide which way you like to sort your data the most. Choose to sort by data, by date, report number, or data type.  Whatever you decide, the process is fast when you compare it to how long it would take to change all the names of files and folders in a filing cabinet to a new naming convention. What would likely take an entire afternoon could instead be done in just an hour on a computer.  

As always, technology can be your friend when trying to stay organized. Good luck!

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