How Do You Stay Organized?

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by palpatine, May 16, 2011.

  1. palpatine, May 16, 2011
    Last edited: May 16, 2011

    palpatine macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    I am starting this thread here, because I thought some people might be interested in talking about organizing their data. Of course, everyone probably already has their own methods, but maybe this will give you some ideas about how to improve it. Or, maybe you could give me some advice :)

    I organize everything I own chronologically according to three characteristics: Is it a) someone else's completed work, b) my completed work, or c) my work in progress?

    First, this solves the main problem with filing, which is deciding where to put something. We dread filing because it requires us to make a decision, but this way the decisions are already made. There are no complicated folder hierarchies. Just dump everything into one of three folders.

    Second, it makes everything easy to find. As Noguchi Yukio (famous organizational guru in Japan) wisely recognized, we tend to remember WHEN we created something much more easily than we remember WHERE we filed it away. This way, all you have to know is roughly when you took a class, received that important paperwork, etc.

    1. Make two folders in your home folder: ARCHIVED and a folder with today's date (110516). ARCHIVED is for files you will not alter. 110516 is for working files.

    2. Inside of ARCHIVED, make three sub-folders: TEXTS, NOTES, and DOCUMENTS. TEXTS are for electronic texts (ebooks and PDFs) of materials written by other people. NOTES are mainly for your scanned handwritten notes, but also for receipts, pamphlets, handouts, and any other looseleaf paper you scan into PDF form. DOCUMENTS holds all of your old working files.

    1. Naming for TEXTS. Name each PDF with the author's name plus the publication date. For example, "smithjohn2011." In case there is more than one smithjohn, provide one of them with a middle name. Save that PDF into a sub-folder named after the author, "smithjohn." Yes, you could do it without a sub-folder if you want, but after generating a few thousand PDF files, I think you'll see the benefit in imposing this tiny annoyance :)

    2. Naming for NOTES. Name each PDF with the date + a word or phrase. For example, "110516biology101." Save that PDF into a sub-folder for that year "2011." Yes, you could do it without a sub-folder if you want, but after generating a few thousand PDF files, I think you'll see the benefit in imposing this tiny annoyance :)

    3. DOCUMENTS just holds your old working files. At the beginning of each month, retire your working file to this folder. For example, in June you'll make a new working folder in your home folder called 110601. If there are any files you are still working on from 110516, just copy those into 110601.

    OK. Let's put it to work. Select all of the files in your NOTES and drag them into VoodooPad (my notetaking software of choice). Now, arrange them however you want. Do you see the beauty of this? You can muck up the organization all you want, but the files themselves never move. If you want to have a file under the title "classes" AND under the title "university major" you can! The same thing goes for your texts. You can link to them however you want :)

    Attached are some screenshots. Most of my folder names are in Japanese, but you get the point. I've been using this system for about a decade now with great success. Any comments would be welcome!

    Attached Files:

  2. Young Spade macrumors 68020

    Mar 31, 2011
    Tallahassee, Florida
    I organize mine in descending folders in terms of specificity. I do most document composition for school.

    The way I have everything organized is

    School / 2011 Spring, 2011 Fall, 2010 Fall

    Then in each folder I'll have
    (2011 Spring example)
    Biology 2
    Biology 2 Lab
    Chem 2
    Chem 2 Lab

    Then in each folder, I'll put my documents. Depending on what type of document they are, I'll name them accordingly.

    (Biology 2 Example)

    Bio 2 lecture Notes Notes Chapter 31
    Bio 2 LEcture powerpoint Notes Chapter 31
    Bio 2 Lecture powerpoint Chapter 31

    So on and so fourth. Giving specific naming categories for certain documents of work allows me to spotlight (or Alfred now) Biology and all of the biology documents will come up. I can then type lab after it and powerpoint and it will drill everything down in increasing specificity.

    I love organization :)
  3. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    If I ever get organized, I'll let you know.... :D

    Seriously... my photos are well organized (have to, as a pro photographer). I let Lightroom use it's default folder structure (dates) and then I keyword every image extensively. That way I can find images by date, or by topic, or by project, or location, or by person, or by connection to me, or even sometimes by colour, etc etc

    My issue with organizing is that often I'm working on a project with two hats on, or projects that involve both text and images.

    So, I have a general 3 part division of content.
    1) Photos. All photos that I taken, mostly unedited, but some with some editing. I keep these totally separate for archiving and back up purposes.
    2) Documents - work related, and
    3) Documents - non-work related - which include volunteer groups and personal stuff.

    With lots of folders and sub-folders below the two documents divisions.

    My issue is that if I'm both volunteering as part of the group organizing the show, and submitting work (a photo) then I have an image, documents that support that image (work related) and documents and images as part of the organizing committee (non-work related). I usually remember to use an alias to link various folders into a single project folder.

    This is one feature I miss from my OS/2 (IBM's precursor to Windows, for you youngsters - :) ). It had a type of folder called, iirc, a Workplace Folder. This folder did not actually "exist" as a directory in the directory tree, it was held as metadata. Anything (folders, docs, images, etc) that you dragged into this Workplace folder would become an alias. Once you had populated the Workplace folder, you could open and close programs and documents and images just as you would any other folder. New and changed changed files would be saved back into the regular directory tree.

    Here's the cool feature though..... if you wanted to step away from the project, you would close the Workplace folder, and all of open application and document windows associated with that Workplace folder would also close. When you opened the Workplace folder again, all of the previously open windows would also open, so you could just pick up where you had left off. It was a great way to organize a multi-faceted project. You could, of course, have as many Workplace folders as you had projects going. Folders could be permanent - or you could create one temporarily for a one-off project.

    I'd love to have that functionality added to OS X. I'd pay some money for it.... hint hint hint
  4. wrldwzrd89 macrumors G5


    Jun 6, 2003
    Solon, OH
    I have all my stuff neatly organized into folders by category.

    For example: Documents -> Computers -> Installers -> Mac OS X -> Multimedia -> Video -> Codecs -> Flip4Mac WMV (version).dmg
    ... and another: Movies -> Apple -> Ads -> iPhone ->
  5. rdowns macrumors Penryn


    Jul 11, 2003
    You people are sick. Everything on the desktop. Can't ever misfile anything. ;)
  6. rhett7660 macrumors G4


    Jan 9, 2008
    Sunny, Southern California
    This is actually a great idea. Thank you for sharing. I am wondring thou, have you ever needed a fourth folder? I am think about the graphics work I do and all the files I amass while doing so.
  7. odinsride macrumors 65816


    Apr 11, 2007
    Who needs organization when there's Spotlight :)
  8. palpatine thread starter macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011

    this is just the simple model. for example, i have folder for reference databases. these are things i do not modify, so they definitely belong in my ARCHIVED folder. they are not made by me, so they ought to go into texts. but, most need special software to be read, so they are not quite like the other ebooks and pdfs. it is convenient to lump them all together in one place for the app to find. this is a special modification that most people probably wouldn't need. i am sure others have their own special needs too.

    whenever possible, the original principle should be followed. don't try and organize everything on the front end. dump it in the folders following these simple naming conventions and organize it on the backend if you need it.
  9. palpatine thread starter macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    good point. for some people, there is no need to organize. but, many of us have that need:

    if you want to improve the specificity of a search result, it's good to have thing in different folders.

    if you use online backup, this makes your online backup service simple to navigate.

    if you have a lot of projects with similar content, then spotlight will turn up results that can be difficult to wade through.

    if you have download ten or twenty publications a day from online journals, colleagues sending you materials, upcoming talks, etc. you don't want to accidentally overwrite files that have the same name (remember, you aren't naming these, and lots of people have stuff called "proposal," "draft," or something else vague and likely to already exist.

    if you want to organize things like notes for a class, notes on a particular project, or something like that for review or quick reference.

    there are lots of reasons to at least follow the naming conventions i suggested :)

    the folders are just there to prevent you from having 20 or 30 thousand files staring you in the face if you open your home files.
  10. palpatine thread starter macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    as long as it works for you! as for me, i prefer a wiki type approach to life. toss it in there with no effort at organizing on the front end. let it get organized later as appropriate. i hate making decisions about something thhat could easily fit into multiple categories. i live paperlessly (99% of my stuff gets digitized) so all sorts of paperwork, notes, and the like are difficult to classify.

    the good part about my system is that everything gets sorted at least one way (chronologically) and can be categorized multiple ways as needed by linking to it from software like voodoopad. for example, maybe you have ads that are about both apple phones and apple ipads, and you want to put it into two categories. just copy the link and you are all set.

    actually, though, my system probably is more appropriate for those who digitize everything. i easily generate several new files a day on my own, not to mention downloading a bunch, and i don't want to have to make a decision about each and every one. not only that, i often realize later that some notes i wrote down for one thign, can be used as part of a project for some other thing, and i don't want to have to reorganize everything later.
  11. palpatine thread starter macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    thanks for sharing your system, and for the information about os2!

    i actually had a similar system long ago. i mainly had things divided between personal and professional, with lots of folders subdividing everything inside. however, there were two issues for me.

    first, my personal and professional life is hopelessly intertwined. every decision was agonizing, and things often got shifted from one to the other.

    second, noguchi yukio's books made me realize that chronological organization was far more effective for me, because my brain was already doing at automatically. and, my modification to his system came out of my own realization that my files in my life naturally sorted themselves into mine/yours and permanent (original not to be touched)/temporarycurrent projects).
  12. Urusai89 macrumors newbie

    May 15, 2011
    I don't organize as much as some others on here.

    I simply keep my music in iTunes (library located in the default "Music" Folder).

    I Keep all my other files in a folder aptly named "Files". Within that folder I have subfolders for documents, pictures, and other things. If I wanted to save only my files and wipe the computer, I just copy that one folder and the music folder.

    I also keep the main apps I use in the dock, which keeps it pretty small. In my finder sidebar, I place my "files" folder, and more, including "Apps" and "Maintenance". Those two folders are for aliases to applications. The "apps" folder has applications that I use occasionally, but not so often that I can justify keeping in the dock (Having them all there makes it easier to find what I need rather than searching the long list in the main folder).

    The "maintenance" folder simply has aliases to things like the airport utility, console, disk utility, carbon copy cloner, etc..

    I use my desktop as a dump for downloaded files. To keep it a little more clean, I leave an "Image dump" folder where I throw all saved images in. I occasionally clean it out, sorting through them all.

    If you're wondering why I'd occasionally clutter my desktop with downloaded files, the reason is simple: It stays upfront and gives me motivation to clean/sort it. I tried having a single folder somewhere to dump everything, but I forget about it when it's out of the way, then end up having to sort through hundreds of files after a while.
  13. Jethrotoe macrumors regular

    May 24, 2009
    Somewhere over there.
    You know...I actually know people who do that. Or so it seems.
  14. palpatine thread starter macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    That's why I made my naming rules! I feel your pain :)
  15. palpatine thread starter macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    Reminds me of "The Website is Down." THE FUNNIEST VIDEO EVER MADE!

    Wait until the ending. The guy's desktop is so hilarious. Now I have to go and watch it again for the one millionth time :)
  16. Jethrotoe macrumors regular

    May 24, 2009
    Somewhere over there.
    That's just great! Thanks. Very funny.
    It's like our IT dept. sometimes. You know it's going on when everybody is paging the IT guy and you see him running all over the place.
  17. combataran macrumors member


    May 9, 2011
  18. palpatine thread starter macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    east asian history with a focus on japan.
  19. combataran macrumors member


    May 9, 2011
    You really do think it through, don't you.:)

    The screenies, they're Finder?
  20. palpatine thread starter macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    yep :)
  21. combataran macrumors member


    May 9, 2011
    Okay, I follow everything so far. Are you sure you got everything down, cos' I don't want any tiny bit of this awesome system to slip past me when attend lectures and stuff.
  22. palpatine thread starter macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    LOL. Well, I just hope it helps out. Give it a try. You don't have to jump in both feet first next semester. Scan a few pages of text from a textbook for a class next semester, run OCR on it using Adobe Acrobat Pro, and then search for some terms. See how that works.

    Then, watch a youtube video or listen to a lecture related to your interests from iTunesU (a little known, but WONDERFUL resource in iTunes) and try taking notes on it. Scan those into PDF form, and a couple days later, go back and type up your notes.

    After a few trial runs, I think you'll know exactly what stuff works for you and what doesn't. Plus, it might inspire you to do a bit of early reading over the summer. Collecting, organizing, and writing notes on stuff tends to be a kind of obsessive pastime. It's fun to build stuff--in this case a database.
  23. NMF macrumors 6502a


    Oct 27, 2011
    Sorry to resurrect an old thread, but why use this system in Finder, rather than Evernote?

Share This Page