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Brendon Walsh
Keeping Organized

Keeping Organized

2010-08-25

Organization is a problem that we all face. Some deal with it a little better than others and they have their own systems and procedures to handle the influx of data. The people that need the most help are the ones that cannot find the time or ambition to implement the procedures of the more organized users.

I've come up with some solutions to help people that have the most trouble trying to maintain order over their digital libraries.

Desktop Archiving

You may be aware of these people. They archive everything they are working on under the desktop. Anything that is ever saved, copied, or downloaded ends up amid the incomprehensibly large pile of 32bit icons arrayed over that stock wallpaper image. A dozen icons have to be pushed aside just to reach the one that is immediately important. This is a nightmare that allows markets for software such as Fences to exist.

It is a slippery slope to save things on the desktop. It starts with just a couple shortcuts, then the project file that needs that program ends up alongside it and before you know it you've got 20GB of animated GIFs and Windows Media files for your PowerPoint sitting there as well. True story.

The solution for this is pretty simple, albeit crude. Stop putting things on your desktop. If you need an extra push - and I know you do - change the permissions of your desktop to read-only and get used to archiving documents in the Documents folder.

Now that you've got all this free real-estate, I recommend decorating the space with a nice wallpaper.

Tron Legacy Wallpaper

Know When to Delete

I've found that one of the largest components of disorganization is the issue that people simply don't delete files. Seriously. Check your downloads folder. Chances are you've probably got a few installation files lurking in there along with a variety of other miscellaneous, unused data no longer required. If you're like most people, downloads finish from your browser and are launched from there immediately afterwards. So naturally, this folder goes neglected most of the time.

Cron to the rescue! You can create a cron job to delete all old files in the Downloads folder after a set amount of time. I'd advise setting it to delete anything older than 7 days. I typically deal with any files within a week, so this works well for me.

This is the script that I am executing in cron.

for file in "$( find ~/Downloads -type f -mtime +7 )"
do
	rm -f $file
done

Naming Conventions

This is the last important part to staying organized and it is by far the easiest. Name things properly. I know it seems like such a mundane thing to have to think up a unique filename, but it is something that so many people overlook.

Picture yourself one year from today looking through your files. Do you still know what UntitledV2-final-FINAL2.ppt is? Also true story.

Take the time to spell out exactly what you're working on when you save a document. And while you're at it, why not delete the 20 previous "final" versions of said document.

Think about how nice it would be to be able to search through your computer for "Vacation in Florida" and actually get results.

Simple Rules

Organization is a simple problem with simple solutions. These are a few tactics that I've become accustomed to over the years. You may have your own little tricks and methodologies. Please share them in the comments.