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May 7: Digital Files

We all use computers, tablets and phones everyday. They can be the most powerful and efficient organization system that you use - if properly organized!

Whether you only use your computer, tablet and phone for personal use, or run a business off of them, the need to organize your files and apps becomes more important everyday. How you file or store important documents, photos and videos should be determined and a system put in place. As you try out new apps, you should delete old apps that you no longer use. They not only take up storage space on your devices, they also contribute to a sense of clutter. The optimum word here is "streamline". Your apps should make your life easier and more time & energy efficient. These steps will help you get there:

On your computer, laptop, tablet or phone, only the apps that you use should be on your desktop for easy selection. You should also use folders for everything! Keeping everything in it's folder helps you stay on top of projects and not spend time looking for "lost" files. Learn how to use "short cuts" to other files, so that you don't spend time "drilling down" to the file you need. When I'm working on projects, I usually keep the project folder - or shortcut to it - on my desk top s

o that it's easily accessible. Once the project is completed, I move the folder (that I purge of unnecessary working documents, duplicates, etc.) to an external drive for long term storage.

Speaking of storage, your files should be backed-up on a regular basis - even more so if it's for your business. External hard drives, online storage (like icloud or dropbox) and flash drives are all excellent ways to back up documents. Depending on the complexity of your work, and how long it would take you to recreate it if lost, you may want to keep 2 or 3 copies of particular files - all on different devices. You can program your devices to automatically back-up once a day, once a week, once a month - whatever schedule you decide works for you. Remember that these back-ups have to be organized too, and cleaned out every now and then or they will fill up and you will be buying more and more storage.

Real life story: I had files stored on my laptop, which I dropped off at a major office supply store for a "tune up" after being assured my files would be safe. Unfortunately, my files were safe but my laptop was not - it was stolen - along with all of my important client files. Before I dropped it off at the store, I backed the client files up on an online system that stored both low res and high res copies. Unfortunately, on that day, unknown to me, the online storage system experienced a "glitch" and only stored low res images. Since the files were photos, I needed the high res images to produce photo products for my clients. Not to worry - I also had the files on an external hard drive. Unfortunately, the hard drive got tipped over on a desk and that one action erased the entire drive. What's the take away here? Even when you're careful and do multiple back-ups, it can still fail. So make sure you back-up what's important!

Now is the time to create a file naming system so that you can more easily locate items. Some people store by name, date or a numerical system. Which ever one you choose, be consistent! If you're good remembering names, use a name system. If you're bad at names, use a date system. If you have multiple clients with similar project dates, use a numerical system. Whatever is easiest for you to use, use it!

Emails are great forms of communication but can quickly become out of control! I get so many emails every day - in multiple email accounts - and have to schedule time just to catch up on reading, then deleting (I "block" delete whole pages of emails I never open) hundreds of emails at a time. While doing this, I add certain companies to my "spam list" (when they become annoying by sending me an email once, twice, three times a week - every week) or opt out when necessary. Don't waste time reading the hundreds of emails that flood your in-box! It's the same concept of junk mail delivered to your house - trash it without opening! You can also keep your in-box cleared out by auto moving important incoming emails into pre-made folders. This helps you find the email later when need it.

Once last thing to think about: adding computer virus protection and identify theft software to your devices and accounts. Also, since we have to use so many passwords now, and are constantly prompted to change them regularly, try to start using longer, more complex ones to thwart the thieves and consider a "password vault" to help you keep track of them. Follow the experts advice to keep you, and your information, safe.

Take Away: Take time to clean out your computer, tablet and phone files regularly. Schedule regular back-ups of your files. Also, make sure someone you trust has access to important passwords or things can be lost forever if you're gone. Tomorrow we will discuss estate planning documents and your digital footprint.

About the Author: L. Sidney Irving is the owner of Sidco Properties, a real estate company dedicated to educating and assisting those that want to buy or sell a home, Sidney loves to organize herself and those around her because she believes that an organized space brings peace and fosters creativity. May the power of organization be with you!

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