What is in a Name? It Could Be The Difference Between Locating Your Files

Feb 24

Ahhhh….name files and setting up folders in Google Drive. So many choices and options for organizing and it’s truly a personal preference and what works for you. Let’s start with the basics. The important thing is to create folders and name files so you can locate them with ease. Use whatever system feels good for you and be consistent with keywords in the file name.

I used to think that creating a folder, then a folder within the folder, and a folder within that folder (you get the idea) was the key to organizing my files on Google Drive or any cloud service. However, I quickly discovered that while the concept seemed to make sense at the time and it looked all neat and tidy, when I needed a file, I had to click multiple times to even get to the folder where the file was located. I also realized I had named multiple folders the same name within each subfolder! It became quite disorganized. Think about it - if you add up how many times you may be trying to find a file in a day, it can add up to the valuable time you have lost. When creating file folders, keep it simple, especially at the top level. 

As we discussed in the Google Workspace series, Google Drive is very intuitive in finding files. You can search for folders and files using search and advanced search to narrow down your choices. You can search your entire drive, just the files “Shared with Me,” by file type, date range, files owned by you, not owned by you….so many ways to help you locate files that seem like they are lost in the abyss. 

When naming your files, you also want to keep in mind that your computer organizes and sorts them alphabetically. One way you can name your files is by year, month, date (xxxx-xx-xx), and a “consistent” keyword for that category. For example, a Blog article. I like to create a folder for the Blog article - “2021-02-22 Googe Drive File Names.” Within that folder, all of the files related to that Blog post including the article, the graphics, the social media posts, etc. are within that folder all tidy in one location with the same keywords. It makes it easy to go back and find a Blog post, all of your graphics, and your social media posts months later, especially if you are consistent with your methods. And, when you have a consistent way you name your files, folders and subfolders are less important because you can easily find them by doing a quick search by a single keyword.

Another tip is to be sure to name your files with numbers or letters at the beginning or end of the file name and not to use spaces, periods, or hyphens. Logically, the way your computer sorts the files, may not be in the order you want to see them. Another tip is to be sure to be clear about the folder and file name when using the same names over and over within categories. For example, if you were creating the main folder for your Blog articles called “2021” and you also use “2021” under the Business Expenses folder, when you are looking for something, all the folders will come up with the same name and you’ll have no idea which folder is for which category. However you name your files, you want to be clear, concise so that it makes sense to you (and others if you outsource). Think about this - say you are sending a form back to someone and the form is named “2021 tax form” and you return the completed file with the same name, the receiver will have no idea who the file is from without looking at each file and perhaps hundreds were sent out. You want to make it easeful for you as well as those you may be sharing your files with. So, we could name this instead “Walrod-2021TaxForm.” Now, you can recognize it at a glance.

If you have multiple versions of the same file, it’s a good idea to put “-V2” at the end of the file name so you know which is the latest copy. Then, when it’s final, you can include “-FINAL”. Adding descriptions and keywords can make searching for files so much easier.

An additional tip I’ve found helpful is to create a folder called “01-Inbox.” This is where I put any files that are sent to me that I need to do something with. It creates one location for you to check for current projects you’re working on. Then, when you have completed the project, you can move the file to the folder it belongs in and you’ll see your file naming convention to keep consistent. I also have a folder called “00-File.” These are random files that need to go somewhere, but I’m not sure where yet. To save time, I can also dump it there and every few days as I’m “tidying up,” I file (or delete) the files, and everything stays organized and consistent.

Within Google Drive, you can also add a “star” to the file name and/or folder. The items you have starred show up in one location. All of your starred documents are in one location. This can be helpful when you are working on the same files over and over. You can also save templates for documents you regularly re-create so you can pull it up and do a “Save As” and rename it. Be sure to put “-TEMPLATE” at the end of the file name (no spaces) so you’ll able to search to find all of your templates even months down the road. It also prepares you to outsource as you already have templates created to share with a team member to show them exactly how to format the file, etc.

Did you know that when sharing files outside your organization, you can force “Create a Copy” so that your original file and filename stay intact. To do this, you change the “edit” at the end of the file name in the browser to “copy.” This is the link you give out as the public link.

One final tip when saving files is that you can create a folder in your Bookmarks for current files and programs you may be working on. Rather than saving the login page, bookmark the page or link that you use, which may be several pages into the site. This cuts down on the number of clicks and helps you save time.

Saving files is a personal preference and doing what works for you is the way to go. When you decide on that format, stay consistent and use any keywords to help you locate the file you are looking for quickly and with ease.  Of course, trying to go back and rename all of your files would take a lot of time and effort. So, just start today and create your system moving forward. When you are creating your file naming convention, think about how you can create categories to help you easily find something months from now. You’ll find it makes you more productive and helps you become a time creator.
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