I’m terrible. A lot of my files exist in this weird kind of purgatorial state - original, version one, version two, version six hundred and three etc. all floating aimlessly on my desktop. I was never really into scrapbooks - but I’m definitely guilty of file hoarding.

It’s easy to do when you spend a lot of time downloading, sorting and altering images. Your focus is on getting work published. It's also easy to do if you're a bit of an image magpie. File management can seem like a laborious hoop-jump hindrance.

However, a gradual build-up of files is detrimental to your workflow; it becomes difficult to locate things, takes a toll on your computer’s performance and generally clutters your mind. It goes back to the adage of haste makes waste. 

Spending a few extra minutes a day keeping your files in order is well worthwhile. Historically, I've rushedly named things by slamming my stubby little hands across the keyboard and hoping for the best, but from now on I’m really going to try and be nice and procedural about it.

This Hubspot blog by Carly Stec promised these things would help:

Folder systems

Do you have many, many files? Is there any kind of hierarchy? Is it easy to find stuff?

Keeping all your project assets filed under the same structure makes it easier to navigate your storage. When you work collaboratively on projects this becomes abundantly clear; my casual attitude towards file naming made my teammate want to strangle me when I first started using creative cloud, and he wasn’t particularly quiet about it. 

I use my desktop as a holding space, that’s why it’s messy. However, for these intermediary 'work-in-progress' files there should be a more formal temporary space… more of a division between ‘active' and ‘archive'.

Using software that depends on layers and multiple assets has changed the way I think about folders. A rabbit-hole of creatively named folders isn’t helpful - but clearly labelled, purpose-oriented files and folders are. 

Clear your desktop. Set up a file architecture that suits you and stick to it.

Naming conventions

Naming conventions help boatloads when you’re searching for things! Who knew.

If you create images that require several variations, or revisions post-feedback, you’ll likely want to note that in the title - it helps both with team communication and archiving. Indicate revisions with a 'V' followed by the version number.

The inclusion of dates or dimensions in a file name may seem superfluous, knowing that you’re able to access that info via file descriptions, but it does help clarify things when you’re folder scanning, viewing the file as an attachment or searching by criteria.

Naming a file with a simple identifier, purpose (/client) and version number seems sensible.

If you’re working with web images it also means that, if ever you miss an alt-tag, you won’t be caught out with an embarrassing awwbunnieeeees.jpg

Generally:

  • Be literal
  • Keep descriptions short 
  • Avoid common words and repetition wherever possible


Sectioned wallpaper

If you’re a visual person, the use of segmented wallpapers might help you stay disciplined. 

Personally, I’m happy clumping folders together without the aid of a sectioned background, but if you really want to go for it there are some attractive options available online that will keep your screen space in check.

Regular archiving

Set a recurring event in your calendar. Archive inactive files and regularly complete a general file audit. You’ll never be left swimming in old files this way. It might even be therapeutic?

There are lots of rules you can follow, but however you choose to organise your work, being consistent, logical and predictable in your approach seems to help.

Now, I’m going to finish writing this post and tidy up my computer.