Today, we use so many files that it’s easy to lose track of where they have been stored. In the busy world we live in, most people don’t have the time to go on a wild goose chase for that picture they loaded onto their computer 5 weeks ago, but just can’t remember where it went. Finding missing files takes time and is almost always preventable. Whether they are work files, pictures, school papers, videos, or any other kind of files, they are worth keeping track of. Follow these steps to keep track of all of your files at all times.

1. Decide Which Filing System Will Work for You

There are many ways you can store files, and I think it would be wrong for me to say that there is only one right way to do it. The first thing you will want to do is choose a filing system that will work and make sense for you. An easy way to test this is by organizing a few different folders, taking a 20 minute break from your computer, and then trying to find one specific file, and see if your system made sense. If it passes the test, then you’re cleared to move on to the next step.

2. Choose a File Naming System—Be Consistent

There are hundreds of possible ways to name documents. When you are organizing your documents, several of them will need to be renamed to fall in line with your new filing system. We wrote an entire article on file-naming conventions earlier that will help you with consistency of file naming. The main points are: create clean and simple file names; avoid using symbols, spaces, and underscores; include the version or date created; and use all lowercase letters. Getting used to a new file-naming convention takes some time and practice, but is worth it in the long run.

3. Separate Personal and Corporate Files

Many people use separate computers at work and at home, and that makes this tip easy for them. But there are many people who use the same computer, phone, tablet, or other device for anything and everything. If this sounds anything like you, then it’s important for you to separate personal and work files for quick and easy access.

4. Organize Files into a Hierarchy of Folders

This is where the organization part comes in. Once your files are separated, organize them in a way that will make them easy to find, following the filing system you decided on earlier. An easy way to think about this is like a filing cabinet with drawers, folders, and sub-folders. Files can live at any point within the hierarchy, but the more detailed you can be, the easier it will be to find documents later on.

5. Get Rid of the Clutter—Keep No Unnecessary Files

I consider myself a bit of a pack rat when it comes to keeping old files. About every 6 months, I go through all  my folders and files. If I find files that are only getting in the way and are no longer necessary, I go delete them from my computer. Occasionally I find files that could be important down the road but are just taking up space at the time, so I create a new archive folder and move the files to that folder, where I can find all of my archives in one  place.