2020 is almost over. For me, the time between Christmas and New Years is a time for reflection, gratitude and an opportunity to start anew. And since this year has been primarily spent on our laptops, I wanted to share some of my favorite tricks when it comes to resetting and organizing files before the holiday break.
Create a place
Unlike in the physical world, the digital space has the dangers of unlimited storage, so it is important to only discard but create a place to house the files worthy of keeping. Before I start going through my miscellaneous (‘Komono’) files in my Downloads or Desktop, I like to create a structure of folders to house my files. Every person’s folders structure will be different but I tend to start with ‘Files I use a lot’, ‘Files I don’t need to see’ and lastly, ‘Folders in between’.
Files I use a lot
As a designer, there are files I frequently reference, either it be brand guides, mock templates or inspiration. For these folders I frequent the most, I tend to label them with an underscore (_) because it naturally pushes that folder to the top of my list.
Files I don’t need to see
On the flip side, I don’t enjoy digging through my older files to find the most recent version so I usually create a folder named ‘z_old’ to archive older renditions of a working file. The ‘z’ pushes the folder towards the bottom of the folder list.
Folders in between
The structure of the folders should be personalized for the person using it. I avoid creating too many subfolders at the first level because it can feel overwhelming on the surface level. Instead, I organize them from broader ‘categories’ and whittle down to specifics. This would be akin to opening a closet and seeing everything at once, versus storing them into sub boxes like ‘winter gear’ vs ‘summer gear’. Which can hone down to ‘summer photos of 2019’. Repetition and consistently named folders bring me ease when sorting through more complicated folder systems.
Like in the physical world, discarding things that aren’t valuable is just as important in the digital world. It’s just as stressful seeing a slew of files in a folder as it is junk in a drawer. Things I encourage myself to discard:
It’s so tempting to keep every photo I have ever taken because, well, I can. But if they are sitting on my desktop unnamed and unkept, I have an opportunity to minimize. My rule with photos is if there is someone who is mid blink, blurry or unflattering — throw it away. My blinking friend would appreciate that the photo does not see the day of light. If I like a set of photos I tend to store it in Google Photos where I can easily sort and search with more ease in the future.
Short lived screenshots
These are screenshots I used to explain a problem at the moment. These are short lived because once I’ve sent the screenshot and resolved the problem, these screenshots are no longer helpful for me. Discard and minimize.
Peace of mind
My goal is to clean up my work space to be as clean as possible for the start of the new year. There is nothing better than turning on my computer after the first day back at the office and finding my desktop clean and ready to start anew. Some extra measures I take for an added peace of mind:
Note to myself
Apart from decluttering my laptop, I recognize there are always those ‘unfinished thoughts’ I don’t want to forget before closing my work laptop for the holidays. I like to write a post it reminder or perhaps a calendar invite for future me to remember X Y Z. That way I can rest without having to worry about forgetting anything.
Back things up
I always forget this step. While I store most of my files on Dropbox, I have to remind myself to store those files that are living on my local drive. Make a copy, just in case.
Those reminders of a software update that I constantly snooze. This is the time to ‘restart my computer’ so when I open my laptop in the New Year I’m not bogged down by an update from 2020.
And that’s it!
I tend to gage how much I’m willing to put into this ‘refresh’. For me, this process is a means to prepare and gain closure for all the work done in 2020. To recognize that amidst all the chaos, we can put things away, delete useless files, and move forward. I hope this was helpful for those excited to close work laptops, and find virtual ways to connect with our loved ones this holiday season — Cheers!