Don’t you love it when something we need is right in front of us, at the right time? When we need something, it is right there, and we just have to grab it. Everything runs smoothly, we take each step in the right direction with ease, and we work with our tasks in a steady, pleasant rhythm without interruptions.
For you who prefer listening to reading, this post is also available as an episode of the “Done!” podcast:
Finding a file
What we often have to locate in that workflow is documents and files. We originally saved them in perfect accordance to the formats we have established in order for them to be found with ease — either by ourselves, or by our current and future colleagues. We have created a designated spot for all the materials that evolve around and regarding that one client, the project, the team or other area of our work. In this designated place we save all the documents that concern the same theme.
Eventually it becomes a bit-of-everything-location
As time passes, the amount of documents increase. We performed the task in one way before and saved the document where it belonged, but now after having changed the routine we do it differently and the new document that is now more accurate, is saved in its proper location — but right next to the old document. Pretty soon we will have locations that contain several documents regarding the same thing, but one will be the updated version, and the others are out of date.
So when we are moving along nicely, and are just about to find and open the document we need, we suddenly have several to choose from and we hesitate. Which document was the most updated one? Sure, we can diligently include version-numbers in the document names, but let’s be honest — how often don’t we just think of some spontaneous yet random name (”_MOST_RECENT”, ”THIS_IS_THE_ONE”) to distinguish the most recent document from the rest?
We go for the wrong document, open an old one, skim it through and close it again, look for the right one, and lose more time and flow. As we look through an old version we come to think of something that happened a while back, lose focus, get distracted and lose even more time. Or we are completely mistaken, and make additions to and edit the wrong version. When we later open the version we believe to be the most accurate one, the changes we made (in the wrong document) are suddenly not there. Again we lose time and energy having to redo our work, and wonder if there isn’t something wrong with the new laptop after all.
One less spanner in the works
Of course neither our work life nor our personal lives should be a chase for minutes and seconds, but there are enough spanners being thrown in the works as it is.
Let us therefore remove everything that is out of date and irrelevant so that it becomes easy to find what is accurate and up to date. The documents that may be outdated, but still are important, are best named something that indicates their status. However, anything that is no longer relevant could and should be deleted.
If this rings a bell, then I am sure you have already thought of a location in which you often have to sift and sort through versions and where the disorder confuses you every time, making you think ”I have to sort this mess out”. Now is a good time for that.
Just take fifteen minutes. Have a look in the location you have in mind and either move or remove the now outdated documents.
You do not have to clean it all out or reorganize your entire folder structure (even though it might be needed), but just remove the obsolete (or place it in a separate subfolder for older versions), and you will have made the search for the updated documents a lot easier.
If you want to, you could from here on out made a quick assessment of if something ought to be removed or deleted every time you are in a place (such as in a folder somewhere) searching for something. If there is something obsolete that could and should be removed, do so and relish at the thought of not having to spend all that extra effort the next time you are looking for something here.
Speed and focus
If you remove things that are no longer relevant and updated you will have fewer documents to choose from and sort amongst when you quickly need to open the right document while working on a task.
You will get less distracted and interrupted by seeing irrelevant information, and you can keep your speed up as well as your focus on the task you want to get done right now.
What is your way?
How do you keep order in all the places you keep documents in? Tell me!
(By the way, have you created a map of your digital documents to make them even more easy to find?)
You can get more like this
If you want more tips on how to create good structure at work, there are many ways to get that from me - in podcasts, videos, books, talks and other formats.