If you can’t see your desktop picture behind the multiple files you’ve saved there or have piles and piles of loose documents scattered around your office, this is how you can get them in order.
Do use folders. Whether you prefer using physical or digital folders, they are the easiest way to organise all kinds of documents. Create or buy a folder for each large category of files you have; for instance, one for insurance, one for bills, one for ongoing work projects, and so on. Then simply arrange your documents accordingly; if you're using a computer, this also works for organising any kind of data you have saved, such as audio or video files.
If you're using digital folders, you can create sub-folders and create slightly more specific categories. However, try not to over-organise either; not everything needs its own sub-folder. You can achieve a similar effect for physical folders by using file dividers.
Once this is done, but you still have loose documents floating around, gather them in a 'random' folder where you can collect everything that does not quite fit anywhere; but still need to keep.
DON'T forget to add dates. Dating your (digital or physical) folders and/or individual files will make your life much easier if you ever need to search for something. Depending on your preference and the type of document, you can choose to add the full date or only the month or even the year.
DO colour-code. An efficient way to organise your folders now that individual documents are neatly filed away is to colour-code them either by type of document or date. This works especially well if you’re using physical folders, as you can simply buy different colours and then arrange them on a shelf, giving you a good overview. Although it does not give you quite the same overview, you can also colour-code digital folders and files using differently coloured tags.
DON'T forget to save (and organise) backups. An essential part of managing your files is to make sure you have backups. You just never know what could happen and therefore having back-ups of, if not everything, your most important files is a must. This is easily done on a computer where you can save everything to a cloud and maybe connect an external hard drive if you want to be extra sure. In the case of paper documents, you can either make regular copies and store them in a different place to the originals, or, even better, scan them so you have a digital version which you can then save in your cloud.
DO create and stick to a filing system. Putting everything neatly away is not worth much if there is no system behind it. This primarily applies to digital files, which you can name. Rather than giving your files generic names or repeating things like 'Project_1'; 'Project_1.1'; 'Project_1.1_FINAL' try to be more specific while keeping it concise. Devising your personal filing system not only makes your folders neater but also more searchable and, thus, time-efficient. Once you've found a succinct naming strategy that makes sense to you, make sure to stick to it in all your files and documents.
DON'T let unfiled documents pile up. Loose documents can quickly pile up, either in the form of loose sheets flying around your office or disorganised files all over your desktop and download folder. Try and file things away immediately so you can stay organised and won't spend ages searching for something you’re sure should be somewhere in this mess. After a while, this will just become a habit that will inevitably make your life easier.
DO declutter. Getting rid of old files is just as important as organising them in the first place. Rather than clogging up your hard disk or shelf, regularly check what files you no longer need and clear them out. While doing this, also check for duplicate files on your computer that take up unnecessary space.