From promotional pictures and company logos, to tutorial videos, infographics and more, we all have an incredible amount of company files we need to keep track of. And more are being created every day!
Marketing has become a very visual medium. But this rise in media assets presents us with a specific problem: how do we better organize our files so that we can quickly find them again when we need them in the future?
Whether you use a DAM (digital asset management) service like CleanPix, a DFL (digital file locker) like Dropbox, or simply store everything on your computer’s hard drive, the answer lies in proper organizational techniques.
In this post, we’ll dive into the top seven ways you can better organize your digital files, regardless of which asset management tool you use. Armed with this in information, you’ll then be able to develop an organizational workflow that streamlines your file storage process and improves your company’s efficiency.
Technique #1: Create a Strategic File Hierarchy
The way you organize your file structure is very important, but there is no “one size fits all” approach. Rather, you must choose a hierarchy that makes sense to you (and your team if you’re organizing a company-wide storage service!) and remains consistent.
When we say, “file structure”, we mean the way you group together files and store them in various folders and subfolders.
Here are a few file storing ideas to get you started:
Organize Your Files by Category
You can group specific files together by category. For example, you could create a folder named “social media” and store every file regarding this topic — pictures, caption ideas, ad spend spreadsheets, etc. — inside.
You could even create subfolders for specific social networks inside your master “social media” folder. Meaning, every file containing Instagram content would be in it’s own folder, as would content for Facebook, Twitter, etc.
Organizing your files by category will give you a logical hierarchy for easy asset storage and relocation.
Organize Files by Date
Perhaps a dated filing structure makes more sense for your workflow. Using this technique, all of your files would be separated by date. Meaning, a folder named “2018” would contain every file created in the year 2018.
This dated file structure can also be combined with the category file structure we just mentioned.
Going back to our previous example, your folder named “social media” could contain subfolders such as “Instagram, May 2018”, inside of which, you would store every Instagram related file you created in May of 2018.
Working, Final, Archive
Depending on how you and your team like to operate, a “process, finished, archived” file structure may be the perfect fit. In this structure, you have three main folders:
- Process: These are files that are still being worked on such as half-written blog posts, partially designed logos and more. Anything that is still “under construction” should be filed in this folder.
- Finished: Files in the finished folder are exactly as they sound: finished! These are content pieces that have been completed and approved and are ready to be consumed or distributed as necessary.
- Archived: These are files that contain valuable information, but aren’t finished products. Think production notes and brainstorms, data and research for finished projects and the like.
Again, this file structure can be combined with the aforementioned two. Your “process” folder can contain subfolders labeled “social media”, which could then contain sub-subfolders such as “Instagram, May 2018”, for example.
Ultimately, the file structure you choose depends on your unique preferences and workflow. So experiment a little and find the perfect file hierarchy for you and your team. Just make sure you keep it consistent, whatever you decide on!
Technique #2: Name Files Appropriately
The more precise you can make your file names, the better. “Client A Presentation” is a lot better than just “Presentation”. But let’s dive deeper into properly naming your files.
- Be descriptive without going overboard. In general, the more detail you can add to your file names, the easier they will be to locate at a future date. But adding too much detail will not only prove tedious during the initially naming process, but might also make it easy to confuse certain files with other. Also, depending on your computer OS or specific storage service, you may have a character limit on file names. It’s better to just stay both precise and concise.
- Use dates in your file names. Even if you plan to organize each file into dated folder, adding a date to each file name will make it easier to search for and allow you to quickly decipher said file from other similar ones. Just be sure to use a conventional dating format across all your files, such as YYMMDD.
- Consider eliminating spaces from file names. Rather, use underscores or dashes in place of spaces. As some operating systems and file storage services don’t allow users to include spaces in their file names, adopting this philosophy will help you avoid potential problems no matter what device or service you use.
- Use leading zeros and eliminate special characters. By using leading zeros (e.g. 01, 02, 03, etc. instead of 1, 2, 3) you’ll ensure that each of your files and folders stay in the appropriate order.
In regard to special characters (@, #, %, etc.), avoid them in your files and folder names as some programs and services are unable to recognize them.
The way you name your files plays a large role in how easy they will be to find in the future. So put some thought into a naming process that makes sense to you and your team and make sure to be consistent with your process of choice when naming each and every file you create.
Technique #3: Use File Tagging
Tags are basically keywords for your files. And if you use them correctly, they can make locating your assets a much simpler process!
But in order for this technique to work, you must be consistent with tagging new files as soon as they’re created or received. If you don’t they’ll quickly become lost in the sea of other files you have stored.
So what does file tagging look like? It’s really simple actually! Just use the tagging feature in your storage service of choice (DAM, DFL, computer hard drive, etc.) and tag similar files with the same tags.
For example, a service contract for Client A could be given the following tags:
- “Client A”
Now, when any of those terms are searched for, the desired file will be among the results.
This is also beneficial if you’d like to see every file related to the searched for tags at one time. Meaning, a search for “Client A” and “2018” will show every file in your database that pertains to Client A and that was created in the year 2018.
Technique #4: Archive Old Files
If you manage a large amount of files, you can attest to the fact that, even if you know the exact folder each of your files is located in, it can still take a minute or two to wade through the other numerous digital assets inside the same folder.
But by archiving old files — files that you don’t necessarily want to delete, but don’t use on a regular basis anymore — you reduce the amount of assets you need to search through in order to find the ones you’re looking for.
If you can regularly schedule time to browse through your file library and move old files to archive folders, we recommend it! The small amount of time you spend archiving will really increase your efficiency down the road as you cull your database for specific files.
Technique #5: Don’t Mix Business and Personal Files
Business and personal files should always be kept separate. Not only will this improve your overall file organization process, but you’ll also ensure your personal files — vacation photos, personal budget sheets, passwords, etc. — remain private and out of the hands of others.
Think about it, the less files you have stored, the easier it will be to find the files you need, exactly when you need them. Plus, it’s just unprofessional to store personal files in the same location as your work files. Especially, if your company is paying for the storage.
So keep personal and business files separate. It’s just better for everyone.
Technique #6: Backup Files to One Central, Shared Location
If you organize your files through a DAM like CleanPix or any of the available digital file lockers on the market, you’re already using this technique by default!
If, on the other hand, you prefer to store all your digital assets on your hard drive, you should consider backing up your entire library to one central, shared location. We recommend this for a few different reasons:
- If anyone ever needs to gain access to your file library — coworkers, for example — they will be able to access files from the shared location rather than requesting access to your personal computer.
- If anything were to happen to your personal device, such as theft, damage, etc., you won’t lose your entire library of assets, which could quite possibly prove devastating!
It’s always a good idea to regularly backup your computer. But doing so through a shared location like a cloud service provider, will give you greater flexibility and convenience.
Technique #7: Commit to Proper File Organization
Finally, none of these techniques matter if you aren’t willing to implement and use them consistently. So commit to proper file organization right now!
More than that, if you work with a team, get them on board as well. Set new standards for how files ought to be organized within your office and demand your coworkers meet them.
There might be some pushback. But the small amount of extra time you spend on file organization will pay dividends down the road. And eventually, people will see the benefits and be happy to comply.
The Time to Organize Your Digital Files is Now!
While the organization of your file library will take time and effort up front, it will definitely be worth it
So begin organizing your files today. Start small and work your way up until every file has its place and can be easily found again when the need arises.
We hope this guide has been useful to you. You now have the tools to properly organize your asset library — no matter what tool (DAM, DFL, Computer Hard Drive) you choose to do so. Happy organizing!– Jacob Thomas