By following two simple but thoughtful steps, your computer files will always be at hand.

Just like with our paper files, we want to able to find, retrieve, and put away electronic documents quickly and easily. Although most computers have pretty effective search functions, that still isn’t as effective as simply knowing where your files are.

Your digital filing system should mirror your paper filing system. Conceptually, putting things away is the same, whether it’s in the physical world of paper or in the virtual world of the computer. It makes sense then to use the same category names and file structures you’ve created for your paper in the computer world. The more you use the same structures and folder styles, the easier it will be to find and put things away in both places.

Ideally you want to use the same category names on your computer as you do for your paper. Start by creating a file structure—categories, folders, subfolders—that is based on your paper filing system. Then, open up a new window in your computer and drag your existing folders and files into the new structure you just created.

Label your files methodically. Paper filing is not exactly the same thing as the computer, however, because your papers don’t each need individual names—but the files on your computer do. That’s why it’s so important to have effective naming strategies for your documents. You want to make sure that you name your documents so that as you open a file full of folders, you don’t have to search through and try to determine which one is the actual document you’re looking for.

Most computers now let you name things with a really long string of characters. So having things in the file name like a description of what the file is about, the version number, the date it was created, who created it—all of those things can generally fit in the file name itself. When those things are in the file name you can very quickly open up a folder full of files and very simply and easily find the one you’re looking for without having to open and close each individual file. This can be a major time saver. If you’ve ever opened up a folder full of documents and you had to open and close every single document to find the one that you’re looking for, you know what a waste of time that is.

Create a naming convention for your documents that you can follow going forward. Use that structure for any files that you create; that way all of your new documents will be organized in a fashion that makes it much easier to actually find them and retrieve them later. When you have time you can go back to your older files and rename those and integrate them into your new filing system.

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Author's Bio: 

Joshua Zerkel, CPO® is the founder of Custom Living Solutions, a San Francisco-based productivity and organizing consulting firm. Joshua specializes in helping busy entrepreneurs save time, be more productive and make more money by getting organized at home and at work. for your FREE copy of “The Top 12 Mistakes to Avoid when Getting Organized”.