How to Organize All Your Digital Life Stuff

Organizing my computer has been a daunting challenge, to say the least. How do you organize the massive amount of digital “stuff” that builds up. I don't know about you, but I end up with tons of ebooks, special reports, etc from signing up for mailing lists and following people on social networks. Then I have all of my documents, stock photos, spreadsheets, etc. There's a lot there!

I do feel like I've developed a decent system of organization, however, and I wanted to share. My system is based strongly on David Allen's Getting Things Done. We'll begin with the top-level view, my personal library grouping.

The File Library Grouping

I work on a Windows 7 computer and run Ubuntu Linux in a virtual machine on my computer. Windows 7 lets me uses library groupings, and I find this feature to be very powerful. Here you can see my custom “Kristen” group:

I put these in a certain order, which you can do by right-clicking on the Library and choosing “Properties” from the menu. Let's explore each one of these folders (directories) and see what's in it. The first folder is my @Inbox. I put the @ sign in front so they will display first in my Windows directory list. This also works in Linux, but not in iOS apps.

Any attachments that come in via email, any ebook/free report downloads I get, any audios, etc. get dumped into the inbox. I have an “Incoming Audio” and an “Incoming Reading” directory to put things that I want to read or listen to in. I pull something out of here from time to time when I need reading material, or when I'm doing a mindless, repetitive task and can listen to teaching while I do it.

My inbox

I process this inbox once a week during my weekly processing and review. If you get tons of stuff coming in you can do it more often. I love this folder because it keeps my desktop clean!

Keeping Track of Project Files

Next you can see my @Projects:

All of these files are for projects that are in progress on one of my websites or for my home. It's a great way for me to have what I need on hand, quickly. It again keeps my desktop from being cluttered.

This is @Homeschooling:

I won't go into detail on this because, well, you probably don't need it. But I wanted to show how I have a specialized folder for something that's really extensive in itself. As you can see, I have it organized logically by subject. I have a lot of .pdf files and things for our schooling, so those go in here where I can actually find them when I need them.

Reference Files

O.K., here's @Reference. Again, this folder and system are pulled strongly from David Allen's Getting Things Done system, and it works well for my computer references.

You can see my alphabetic filing folders. I know they're not evenly distributed… I broke them up into chunks that made sense to me, and so there wouldn't be too much in any one (for instance, I didn't want S and T together since I tend to get a lot of things filed under those letters). Right now I don't have a folder for each letter, but if I get too much going on, I will do that.

Computers make things a little easier since I can do a search to find the files that I want, but sometimes I can't remember exactly what something is called, so I search through directories to find it. This filing system helps me keep things organized, and again, it keeps my desktop clear.

I do have a meal planning directory in here separate from the other folders so I can access it quickly if I need it. I also use a program on the computer/iOS devices to organize my recipes and do my meal planning (I use Cook'n for recipe organization, and Grocery Gadget for my shopping lists.)

Here's @Reference_Business

These are business documents, spreadsheets, ebooks, etc. The organization is the same as for @Reference. There are also folders for “Completed Projects” and “Dead Projects” — I like to keep project files together in case I want to refer to them, and this makes them easily accessible.

My Dropbox

My plan is to actually move all of the above folders out of “My Documents” on my computer and into my Dropbox folder… at least that's what I'm thinking. I haven't fully taken the plunge yet. But some of my folders in Dropbox are a little redundant, and all of my System folders are in Dropbox.

As you can see, I have an @My_Projects folder in Dropbox, and most of the working files for my projects are in here. I will detail my project management system more completely in another post — but Dropbox houses most of it.

The @My_Systems folder is all of the documentation for the procedures I use to run my business and manage my household. If you look on the left-hand side of the image, you can see where I opened the drop-down for @My_Systems. Inside are @Family_Systems and @Milk-and-Mud-LLC_Systems. So one for family stuff and one for work (it takes a lot of systems to keep up with a big, busy family!) I may do another, more detailed post on systems, too.

Also in the Dropbox you can see folders for Formatting, Projects with Kristen, and Projects with Scott. These are all shared folders with my husband, who helps with a lot of the back-end tasks for my websites (yes, he's wonderful, and all mine. Get your own!).

Plain Text, IThoughts, and NotesPlus folders correspond with those apps on my iPad and iPhone. Those are organized in a similar structure to my @My_Projects, but house just the files associated with that app. This works well for me.

[box] If you don't have a Dropbox yet, you need to get one. Dropbox is amazing at syncing anything you put into it across all of your computers, phones, tablets… and on any operating system![/box]

Summing it All Up

My virtual machine also has some files on it — it has all of my stock photos and graphics in a graphics folder. There's also a folder called “Sites” that has various things from all of my websites (product drafts, etc.) that I haven't touched yet and really need to clean up! I will probably incorporate most of those files into my business reference folder.

Otherwise, I've pretty much streamlined everything into the collection of folders in my library and I like it that way. The ultimate streamlining will be when I make the jump to putting my all of my directories into my Dropbox (I estimate it's around about 60g worth of “stuff” — photos and videos are generally not in these directories, so they're not huge). Then I'll reorganize my “Kristen's Files” library to show the folders inside Dropbox in the library listing.

The library makes it very easy for me to quickly drag a file to where it belongs, and now that I have a system, I can process things fairly efficiently. The only thing that really builds up is the “Incoming” audio and reading… I never seem to have enough time to get through all of it!

Hopefully this overview of my system will help you jump into your own organizing.

Do you have a system for keeping your digital content organized? Share your tips below!


I'm a wife and mother who loves working online. This is my little home on the web. I run Milk and Mud to share what I'm discovering as I run my own business and explore personal development.

adolf@IT Services Melbourne - July 23, 2012

Thanks for helping me I found this blog really helpful.

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