How to Best Organize Your Digital Files

How to Best Organize Your Digital Files

“Hey Jake – I can’t find that file you said you shared with me. Just e-mail it to me, OK?” I asked.

“Um, I will try.”

“You don’t sound so confident. Why?”

“Well, I’m not sure I can find the file again. It’s somewhere in my Google Drive, but I’m not sure where.”

Yikes! Jake sweated it out while he went through dozens of files, trying to find the correct one. Does that sound familiar?  

Even the most organized of us let our Google Drive look like a tornado just blew through. Files everywhere, all with similar names like “Homework” or “Weekly Report” or just our name. As more and more work goes digital, it is imperative that you know how to name and organize digital files.

Grab the FREE digital file organization worksheet to make this process even easier! Just click on the button above!

The Best Ways to Organize Your Digital Files!

organize digital files

Video – How to Organize Your Digital File

Today, I have a little something something for you! Prefer video over reading? Check out my lovely little video below. If you prefer reading (like me!), scroll down a little and get your read on. If you’re interested in the FREE desktop wallpaper, scroll all the way down to the bottom!

File Names

Let’s start by naming your files. You will pick a naming convention. It’s not where a bunch of people get together and pick names. (That sounds awesome, BTW.) Instead, you decide on a formula for naming your files.  Your naming convention needs to be descriptive and consistent.

Your naming convention for files needs to be descriptive and consistent.Click To Tweet

That means that your file names need to describe what is inside the file. Why? So YOU CAN FIND IT LATER. If I name a file “draft”, it will be hard to locate in the future. However, if you name it “1920s Women Research Paper DRAFT” you can more easily find it.

For consistency, you need to use the same convention, or formula, over and over again. If you change the formula often, it will still be difficult to find files.

Some naming convention suggestions:

  • YYYYMMDD Assignment description (20170404 Fruit Fly Lab Report)
  • Marking Period Assignment description (Q1 Fruit Fly Lab Report)
  • Course Assignment description  (Biology Fruit Fly Lab Report)

If your instructor is using Google Classroom, you don’t have much control over naming the files UNTIL the file has been graded and returned. I highly recommend changing the name at that point.

File Organization

If your teachers use Google Classroom, Classroom creates a folder for you in your Google Drive.  If not, create a folder for each class. You should organize all your digital files within the class folders.

You can also create sub-folders for each grading period, such as a trimester, quarter, or semester.  If working in Google, you can easily color code the folders by class. There are directions for this in the video.

What if your files are scattered across a Google Drive, your laptop, and your Dropbox? You need to pick a single place to keep your files OR use each storage location for a different purpose. You could keep school files in your Drive and your pictures in Dropbox.

I also highly recommend moving files off your computer and into the cloud. I speak from personal experience on this one. Due to technology malfunctions, I rewrote a 10-page paper from scratch, not once, but TWICE in college. Also, having watched too many teachers fall apart as they lost years of lesson plans, I kept all my files in the cloud during my last few years teaching.

File Cleanout

After a few years of using Google Drive, I realized that I had a TON of files, many of which I did not need to keep. But it seemed too daunting to clean them all out. Aaaand, I had a lot of free storage, so why should I? So I didn’t. Ya’ll, I became a file hoarder, one who is about to run out of free storage.

I am putting myself on a file cleaning schedule. Want to join me? Here’s my plan. Starting with the oldest files I have, I will go through 2 major folders a week and delete unnecessary files. I will report in weekly with how many files I have deleted. (Public accountability is a surefire way to achieve your goals, BTW.) Deal? Deal.

Desktop Organization

Let’s now look at your desktop. I am an icon minimalist, but others are not. I get a headache just looking at my husband’s’ desktop! Truly terrifying. He claims he knows where all the files are, but I find that hard to believe.

I only keep temporary files on my desktop and clean it up every night before I turn my laptop off. But I get it: you would rather have immediate access to certain files on your desktop.

If icons are strewn all over your computer desktop, a desktop “parking lot” may be just the ticket to creating some order.  Download one of the designs in my FREE Resource Library and make it the wallpaper on your computer.

Organize your icons by category (graphics, apps, assignments, etc.) and place your icons in the boxes by category. (If particularly techie, you can add labels to the boxes using a site such as Picmonkey or BeFunky.)

As for Jake, he finally found the file, but spent a lot of time searching for it. So, don’t be like Jake. Get your files organized! Hopefully, these tips will help you clean up that digital drive today!

Let me know how your digital file organizing goes in the comments below!


Related Files: Organize Your Notebook Like a BossThe Best Student Planner for your Teen, How to Create a Homework Caddy for Cheap

How to Best Organize Your Digital Files
How to Best Organize Your Digital Files


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