Going Paperless: Digital File Keeping

Short post this week as I’m knee deep in the new manuscript.

On my last paperless post, I mentioned a few baby steps to help get you started. I’ll expand on that this week. Before you get started with scanning, you’ll want an idea of how and where to keep all those digital copies.

What about file naming? Where and how do I keep all these documents?

Here’s what works for me: The Get-It-Done Guy, Stever Robbins had a podcast back in June of 2009 about keeping your files neat. Aside from the kind of files he recommends, I loved the concept of file naming so much that I adopted it for my digital life as well as the paper filing cabinet. Here’s some examples from my own cabinet:

UTILITIES – Cell Phone

I emulated that same structure on my computer. I have an encrypted folder (more on that later) named Filing Cabinet. Inside that, I created a folder that mimicked my real cabinet.

Now, for file names. For statements, I use dates and something descriptive. This is important because although you’ll have a good folder structure, you’ll want to locate files easily within it. And, if you name it properly, you can use your computer’s search tools to go straight the file you want (or at least narrow it down). So, for my cell phone bill, the name is year-month-day where the statement date is the date I use. 2011-01-15 AT&T Statement. See how easy?

Some things don’t work so well with a date format, like the bill for new carpeting. But, you’ll just have to come up with what works best for you. Me? I’d file it in a Home Improvements folder and call it Upstairs Carpeting (ABC Carpets 2011).

So, why not just dump all the files into one location and forget about folders? That’s a personal choice. If you’ve OCR’d every piece of paper and have an excellent naming convention, sure. Go for it. I just happen to like folder names that make sense, well-named files, AND the ability to search for those OCR’d docs if I wanted to. Speaking of OCR documents do take up more disk space, just so you know. I don’t OCR every document. Just some. And there are some utilities that will turn the digital copy into an OCR file if you want to do so later. Don’t over stress here.

I mentioned that I encrypt the folder I keep all my digital documents in. It’s like a key on your filing cabinet. I don’t want well meaning family members going through my filing cabinet, paper or otherwise. Plus, it keeps dishonest eyes out as well. If my computer is stolen, it’s highly unlikely they’ll be able to read certain folders/files. If you have a Mac, you can use Disk Image to create an encrypted folder. Or, if you have a PC, try the free TrueCrypt (which also works with Macs). Should you encrypt your data? YES! Always.

Now, back to writing. I’m right in the middle of a good part. 🙂


3 thoughts on “Going Paperless: Digital File Keeping

  1. Pingback: Getting SuperGeeky: Paperless Workflow w/ my Mac & Hazel | Michelle Muto – Author

  2. First of all I want to say fantastic blog! I had a quick question that I’d like to ask if you do not mind. I was interested to find out how you center yourself and clear your thoughts prior to writing. I’ve had a hard time clearing my thoughts in getting my ideas out.
    I do enjoy writing but it just seems like the first 10
    to 15 minutes are wasted simply just trying to
    figure out how to begin. Any ideas or hints? Thanks!

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