Ilios Digital Organizing Blog

13 May 2020

Paper Vs. Digital – Which is easier to organize?

Paper documents and digital documents. You’ll find organizers who specialize in one or the other, but is organizing paper really that different from organizing digital files? When it comes down to it, many of the same principles apply to both formats. After all, you are organizing information, regardless of the form it is in. So what is the same? 

Organizing Method: How you organize – by topic, alphabetical, chronological – depends on the type of information you are working with as well as your personal preferences. I have one client that organizes information about her car under the heading ‘Acura’ and ‘Acura maintenance’. Another client uses ‘Car’ and ‘Car Maintenance’. Both are valid choices. 

Naming Conventions: The name you use on your file can make a huge difference in how easy it is to find again. I have lots of information about organizing in Evernote (as you would expect). To make sure it all sorts together I’ve used specific names for each notebook – Organizing – Photos, Organizing – Workflow, Organizing – Basics, etc. I’ve done this same type of setup for a client’s physical files – Labs 2010-2015, Labs 2005-2009

Records Retention: All documents have a ‘shelf life’ for how long you need to keep them in your system. Those house documents need to stay until you’ve sold the house, if not for several years after. Your pay stubs can be shredded after your correct W-2 comes through at tax time. These retention guidelines apply regardless of the form of information. 

So what’s different when you are working with paper rather than digital information? 

Searching: I’ve had many frustrating moments searching through a client’s physical files for a particular document that I could have located quickly using the search function in Evernote or on my computer.  Why retirement documents ended up in financial statements is beyond me when there was a folder specifically for retirement papers.

With physical files, in particular, I recommend clients always go with their first instinct when filing something. If your first thought is that the car insurance receipt goes under Insurance, we’ll go with that because when it comes time to search, chances are that is the first place you’ll look. With digital search it is easier because many programs these days will search within a document as well as looking at the file name. Although having good naming conventions is always a good first step!

Filing location: A physical file can only exist in one location. If you have a reservation form for the car rental place you can either put it in receipts or in vacation 2019, but not both. In a digital system, you can apply tags or metadata that allow us to find all vacation 2019 documents, regardless of where you had originally filed them. 

Organizing your paper and digital files require most of the same principles, with a few notable exceptions. How about your files? Are they in order? Can you find what you need when you need it? I can help with that! 

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Ilios Digital Organizing Blog

15 September 2020

4 Steps to Organized Files

Are you ready for more organized files? Is it time to stop searching, and searching, for that one document you need right now, but can never find. How many times are you going to recreate a form because you can’t find the original? It’s frustrating and all that searching is just wasting time you could spend doing something you actually like to do. (unless you’re me, who loves organizing files 🙂 )

So now’s the time to get organized! Check out my Four Steps to Organized Files. It seems like a lot of information, but don’t worry, you don’t have to complete the process in a single day. Instead, take 10 – 15 minutes a day to tackle the folders and files and before you know it, you’re on your way to a better organized system that allows you to be more productive (and gives you more time for you!).

Let’s get started!

Step 1: Determine Your File Structure

How do you want your files to be arranged? Are you separating business from personal files? What about your financial files? Are they different for business versus personal? A flat structure – one with fewer subfolders – is the best place to start.

When you are first determining your file structure, think big categories like Marketing, Continuing Education, Financials, etc. As you add files into these folders, you will begin to see where you need subfolders. Don’t worry about getting your structure right the first time. Your file structure is a living document that gets fine-tuned as you go.

Step 2: Gather Your Files

 Where do your files hang out? You might be surprised how far-flung your documents are. Check out your cloud storage sites like Dropbox, Google Drive, (don’t forget OneDrive!), current and old computers, USB drives, external hard drives, and wherever else you can think they could be hiding. Don’t forget to check for documents you may be sharing with someone else. 

Step 3: Find Your New Home

Once you’ve got all your documents accounted for, determine what is going to live where (and if there is actually room for those documents there). It may not be realistic to have everything in one location. Cloud storage offers you easy access regardless of where you are, but many people are only on one computer, so remote access isn’t that big of an issue.

Do you need to share documents with others? This may be another reason to consider cloud storage in addition to or in place of computer storage. Regardless of where you put your documents, make sure they can be backed up for the greatest security.

Step 4: Move Documents

You’ve created your structure in the new location, now is the time to move your documents. Don’t forget to be cautious with those shared documents in cloud storage. These are ones you might not be able to move right away or be able to move at all based on how and who is doing the sharing. Once you have your documents moved to their new homes, make sure your backup system is in place to provide peace of mind and protection for all that hard work you’ve done!

You’re done! How’s it feel to be in charge of your documents, rather than letting them run your day? Better good, right? Now it’s time to keep up what you worked so hard to achieve. Make sure you are creating and saving documents in the ‘right place’.

Do you have time for an extra step? Run a duplicate file finder program. Check out an earlier Ilios Blog Post for suggestions!

Need some assistance organizing your files? Looking for more in-depth instructions on how to get started? Let’s talk! Schedule your Discovery Conversation today!

8 September 2020

Are you a Paper Piler or a Document Filer?

When it comes to organizing papers, people generally fall into two categories – the pilers and the filers. Filers tend to put papers away in cabinets/drawers, while pilers stack their documents where they can be seen and remembered.

There are benefits to both ways of life. Those who pile like to say there is an organizational method to their madness. For many people, having information out where you can see it and easily access it is key to their productivity. 

However, for filers, these piles can be distracting. They may function best when their work station is clear of documents and other papers. To recall things, filers rely on a carefully created file structure and hierarchy. 
Regardless of which way you manage your information, take advantage of well-labeled folders or binders, as well as a solid organizational structure to increase your productivity.

When creating labels use words you know and understand. Don’t label something Auto if you refer to it as Car or Toyota. The best label choices are the ones you use most frequently. I tell clients that they should use the first word that comes to mind when they are trying to find something. If you have to look in more than one location for a document, considering moving it to the first place you looked, even if it doesn’t fit ‘conventional wisdom’. 

When it comes to organizing your papers, filers often take advantage of traditional file cabinets or smaller file storage boxes. Pilers may find stacking boxes like these at the Container Store helpful in managing their information. Remember, the best system is one that works for you so don’t be afraid to try different configurations till you figure it out.

If you want more help getting your files in shape, let me know! Schedule a Discovery Conversation and we can talk!

25 August 2020

Computer Cleanup Challenge – Bookmarks

Week 4: Digital Bookmarks

I’m as guilty as anyone else of bookmarking more than I need to. But it’s just so easy to click the little save button when you find something interesting. Browser bookmarks are a convenient way to keep track of those things you don’t have time to review now but don’t want to leave as an open tab.

(Hint, open tabs are too easily lost if you accidentally shut down your browser or your computer. )

But how many of us have a ginormous list of bookmarks, many of which we don’t even remember saving?

There’s an easy way to remedy that. Take 5 – 10 minute a day to go through your bookmark list. First, check to make sure the link is still valid. Then, determine if you are still interested in the information. As David Allen says, if you can read it through/review the site in two minutes or less, do it! Don’t forget to remove the bookmark once you’re done with the site. 

Need to save the bookmark for future reference? Find a way to store those ‘permanent’ bookmarks separate from the ‘still need to review this info’ bookmarks. Most browsers will allow you to organize your bookmarks into folders as a way of keeping things sorted out.  You could also use Evernote or OneNote as a bookmark reference tool.

You made it to the end of the challenge! Great job on sticking with it! If you joined us for the entire challenge this month I hope your computer is a bit more organized and things are easier to find. Has the increased organization led to greater productivity for you? More free time that you were spending looking for things?

If you want to take a more in-depth look at organizing your computer, you can let me know by signing up for a Discovery Conversation today! I’d love to chat about your organizing goals.

And as always, if you’d rather receive your udpates via email, then don’t forget to Sign up for the Ilios Digital Tips and Tricks newsletter!

18 August 2020

Computer Cleanup Challenge – Desktop/Downloads

Is your computer bogged down with too many icons and too many bookmarks? Are there files and documents everywhere but where you need them? Is all that junk getting in your way and slowing down your productivity? Maybe it’s time for a computer cleanup!

Join me this month as we clear away the clutter and streamline our computers!

Week 3: Desktop files and downloads folder

Congrats! You’ve made it halfway through the challenge! How has it been so far? Have you found it challenging to get your contacts organized or your email straightened out? How’s your productivity going with the increased organization?

Did you know that a cluttered desktop can lead to a slower performing computer? In addition, files that live on the desktop may not be syncing with iCloud or Dropbox or your backup software. Finally, without an organization plan, your desktop can get so cluttered that it is hard to find what you need.

This week, take 10 minutes a day to go through the files littering your computer desktop. Then, move the files to their more appropriate home. Once you’ve cleaned it off, make sure that you save new documents to a documents folder instead of on the desktop.

The downloads folder is an easy place to put things you may only need temporarily. But don’t forget to go through the folder once a week or so and clean out those documents you no longer need, or move the ones you want to keep to their permanent home.

Join us next week to talk about digital bookmarks!

Would you rather receive your updates via email? Sign up for the Ilios Digital Tips and Tricks newsletter!

11 August 2020

Computer Cleanup Challenge – Email

Is your computer bogged down with too many icons and too many bookmarks? Are there files and documents everywhere but where you need them? Is all that junk getting in your way and slowing down your productivity? Maybe it’s time for a computer cleanup!

Join me this month as we clear away the clutter and streamline our computers!

Week 2: Email

If you have over 100 emails unread – you’re not alone!

To start the cleanup process, go through your inbox and mark all the emails as read. Then scan each email starting with the most recent.

Read the email once and decide right away – action item, reference item, trash item. Need details on how that all works? Check out the series I posted here about email management –

When cleaning up, tackle your email in 5 or 10 minute chunks – don’t allow email cleanup to monopolize your whole day. Remember, if an email is more than a month old, there’s probably no urgency with it.

Once you’ve got your email cleaned up, remember to tackle incoming email with the same question – action, reference, or trash. Asking the question, and acting on it, will help you stay on top of email clutter. 

Join us next week when we talk about maintaining a clean desktop. 

Prefer to receive these updates in your email? Sign up for the Ilios Digital Tips and Tricks Newsletter!

4 August 2020

Computer Cleanup Challenge – Contacts

Is your computer bogged down with too many icons and too many bookmarks? Are there files and documents everywhere but where you need them? Is all that stuff getting in your way and slowing down your productivity?

Maybe it’s time for a computer cleanup!

Join me this month as we clear away the clutter and streamline our computers!

Week 1: Contacts

When working with contacts the first step is to remove any duplicates or combine them to create a more complete entry. This includes finding those entries listed as ‘Lisa’ or ‘Joann’ and completing the entry with her entire name.

Are your contacts in multiple areas like your computer, your phone, your paper calendar? Take some time to go through and consolidate those multiple lists into one location – ideally an online account like a gmail account or iCloud account. Consolidation will help with the duplicates and make it easier to find someone when you need them.

Don’t forget to make sure your phone contacts are set to sync with your online account. This prevents contacts from being saved only on your phone. 

Join us next week when we talk about everyone’s favorite subject – organizing your email!

Would you rather receive your updates via email? Sign up for the Ilios Digital Tips and Tricks newsletter!

Ilios Digital Organizing Blog

15 September 2020

4 Steps to Organized Files

Are you ready for more organized files? Is it time to stop searching, and searching, for that one document you need right now, but can never find. How many times are you going to recreate a form because you can’t find the original? It’s frustrating and all that searching is just wasting time you could spend doing something you actually like to do. (unless you’re me, who loves organizing files 🙂 )

So now’s the time to get organized! Check out my Four Steps to Organized Files. It seems like a lot of information, but don’t worry, you don’t have to complete the process in a single day. Instead, take 10 – 15 minutes a day to tackle the folders and files and before you know it, you’re on your way to a better organized system that allows you to be more productive (and gives you more time for you!).

Let’s get started!

Step 1: Determine Your File Structure

How do you want your files to be arranged? Are you separating business from personal files? What about your financial files? Are they different for business versus personal? A flat structure – one with fewer subfolders – is the best place to start.

When you are first determining your file structure, think big categories like Marketing, Continuing Education, Financials, etc. As you add files into these folders, you will begin to see where you need subfolders. Don’t worry about getting your structure right the first time. Your file structure is a living document that gets fine-tuned as you go.

Step 2: Gather Your Files

 Where do your files hang out? You might be surprised how far-flung your documents are. Check out your cloud storage sites like Dropbox, Google Drive, (don’t forget OneDrive!), current and old computers, USB drives, external hard drives, and wherever else you can think they could be hiding. Don’t forget to check for documents you may be sharing with someone else. 

Step 3: Find Your New Home

Once you’ve got all your documents accounted for, determine what is going to live where (and if there is actually room for those documents there). It may not be realistic to have everything in one location. Cloud storage offers you easy access regardless of where you are, but many people are only on one computer, so remote access isn’t that big of an issue.

Do you need to share documents with others? This may be another reason to consider cloud storage in addition to or in place of computer storage. Regardless of where you put your documents, make sure they can be backed up for the greatest security.

Step 4: Move Documents

You’ve created your structure in the new location, now is the time to move your documents. Don’t forget to be cautious with those shared documents in cloud storage. These are ones you might not be able to move right away or be able to move at all based on how and who is doing the sharing. Once you have your documents moved to their new homes, make sure your backup system is in place to provide peace of mind and protection for all that hard work you’ve done!

You’re done! How’s it feel to be in charge of your documents, rather than letting them run your day? Better good, right? Now it’s time to keep up what you worked so hard to achieve. Make sure you are creating and saving documents in the ‘right place’.

Do you have time for an extra step? Run a duplicate file finder program. Check out an earlier Ilios Blog Post for suggestions!

Need some assistance organizing your files? Looking for more in-depth instructions on how to get started? Let’s talk! Schedule your Discovery Conversation today!

8 September 2020

Are you a Paper Piler or a Document Filer?

When it comes to organizing papers, people generally fall into two categories – the pilers and the filers. Filers tend to put papers away in cabinets/drawers, while pilers stack their documents where they can be seen and remembered.

There are benefits to both ways of life. Those who pile like to say there is an organizational method to their madness. For many people, having information out where you can see it and easily access it is key to their productivity. 

However, for filers, these piles can be distracting. They may function best when their work station is clear of documents and other papers. To recall things, filers rely on a carefully created file structure and hierarchy. 
Regardless of which way you manage your information, take advantage of well-labeled folders or binders, as well as a solid organizational structure to increase your productivity.

When creating labels use words you know and understand. Don’t label something Auto if you refer to it as Car or Toyota. The best label choices are the ones you use most frequently. I tell clients that they should use the first word that comes to mind when they are trying to find something. If you have to look in more than one location for a document, considering moving it to the first place you looked, even if it doesn’t fit ‘conventional wisdom’. 

When it comes to organizing your papers, filers often take advantage of traditional file cabinets or smaller file storage boxes. Pilers may find stacking boxes like these at the Container Store helpful in managing their information. Remember, the best system is one that works for you so don’t be afraid to try different configurations till you figure it out.

If you want more help getting your files in shape, let me know! Schedule a Discovery Conversation and we can talk!

25 August 2020

Computer Cleanup Challenge – Bookmarks

Week 4: Digital Bookmarks

I’m as guilty as anyone else of bookmarking more than I need to. But it’s just so easy to click the little save button when you find something interesting. Browser bookmarks are a convenient way to keep track of those things you don’t have time to review now but don’t want to leave as an open tab.

(Hint, open tabs are too easily lost if you accidentally shut down your browser or your computer. )

But how many of us have a ginormous list of bookmarks, many of which we don’t even remember saving?

There’s an easy way to remedy that. Take 5 – 10 minute a day to go through your bookmark list. First, check to make sure the link is still valid. Then, determine if you are still interested in the information. As David Allen says, if you can read it through/review the site in two minutes or less, do it! Don’t forget to remove the bookmark once you’re done with the site. 

Need to save the bookmark for future reference? Find a way to store those ‘permanent’ bookmarks separate from the ‘still need to review this info’ bookmarks. Most browsers will allow you to organize your bookmarks into folders as a way of keeping things sorted out.  You could also use Evernote or OneNote as a bookmark reference tool.

You made it to the end of the challenge! Great job on sticking with it! If you joined us for the entire challenge this month I hope your computer is a bit more organized and things are easier to find. Has the increased organization led to greater productivity for you? More free time that you were spending looking for things?

If you want to take a more in-depth look at organizing your computer, you can let me know by signing up for a Discovery Conversation today! I’d love to chat about your organizing goals.

And as always, if you’d rather receive your udpates via email, then don’t forget to Sign up for the Ilios Digital Tips and Tricks newsletter!

18 August 2020

Computer Cleanup Challenge – Desktop/Downloads

Is your computer bogged down with too many icons and too many bookmarks? Are there files and documents everywhere but where you need them? Is all that junk getting in your way and slowing down your productivity? Maybe it’s time for a computer cleanup!

Join me this month as we clear away the clutter and streamline our computers!

Week 3: Desktop files and downloads folder

Congrats! You’ve made it halfway through the challenge! How has it been so far? Have you found it challenging to get your contacts organized or your email straightened out? How’s your productivity going with the increased organization?

Did you know that a cluttered desktop can lead to a slower performing computer? In addition, files that live on the desktop may not be syncing with iCloud or Dropbox or your backup software. Finally, without an organization plan, your desktop can get so cluttered that it is hard to find what you need.

This week, take 10 minutes a day to go through the files littering your computer desktop. Then, move the files to their more appropriate home. Once you’ve cleaned it off, make sure that you save new documents to a documents folder instead of on the desktop.

The downloads folder is an easy place to put things you may only need temporarily. But don’t forget to go through the folder once a week or so and clean out those documents you no longer need, or move the ones you want to keep to their permanent home.

Join us next week to talk about digital bookmarks!

Would you rather receive your updates via email? Sign up for the Ilios Digital Tips and Tricks newsletter!

11 August 2020

Computer Cleanup Challenge – Email

Is your computer bogged down with too many icons and too many bookmarks? Are there files and documents everywhere but where you need them? Is all that junk getting in your way and slowing down your productivity? Maybe it’s time for a computer cleanup!

Join me this month as we clear away the clutter and streamline our computers!

Week 2: Email

If you have over 100 emails unread – you’re not alone!

To start the cleanup process, go through your inbox and mark all the emails as read. Then scan each email starting with the most recent.

Read the email once and decide right away – action item, reference item, trash item. Need details on how that all works? Check out the series I posted here about email management –

When cleaning up, tackle your email in 5 or 10 minute chunks – don’t allow email cleanup to monopolize your whole day. Remember, if an email is more than a month old, there’s probably no urgency with it.

Once you’ve got your email cleaned up, remember to tackle incoming email with the same question – action, reference, or trash. Asking the question, and acting on it, will help you stay on top of email clutter. 

Join us next week when we talk about maintaining a clean desktop. 

Prefer to receive these updates in your email? Sign up for the Ilios Digital Tips and Tricks Newsletter!

4 August 2020

Computer Cleanup Challenge – Contacts

Is your computer bogged down with too many icons and too many bookmarks? Are there files and documents everywhere but where you need them? Is all that stuff getting in your way and slowing down your productivity?

Maybe it’s time for a computer cleanup!

Join me this month as we clear away the clutter and streamline our computers!

Week 1: Contacts

When working with contacts the first step is to remove any duplicates or combine them to create a more complete entry. This includes finding those entries listed as ‘Lisa’ or ‘Joann’ and completing the entry with her entire name.

Are your contacts in multiple areas like your computer, your phone, your paper calendar? Take some time to go through and consolidate those multiple lists into one location – ideally an online account like a gmail account or iCloud account. Consolidation will help with the duplicates and make it easier to find someone when you need them.

Don’t forget to make sure your phone contacts are set to sync with your online account. This prevents contacts from being saved only on your phone. 

Join us next week when we talk about everyone’s favorite subject – organizing your email!

Would you rather receive your updates via email? Sign up for the Ilios Digital Tips and Tricks newsletter!