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Banish Digital Clutter in 4 Simple Steps

Even people with tidy desks and pin-neat offices sometimes find themselves with a whole lot of clutter – on their hard drives. But just because storage is cheap these days doesn’t mean you need to have a lot of spare bits and bytes hanging around. Keeping extra files on your hard drive can make it difficult to get to the information you want, leading to lost or duplicated files and a lot of wasted time. Here are a few simple ways you can keep your files in order.
1. Delete, delete, delete.
You know the old adage about clothes: If you haven’t worn something in a year, throw it out. The same might apply to your computer files. If you haven’t opened something in a year, you’re probably safe throwing it out. At the very least, you can take everything you’re not one hundred percent sure you’re comfortable deleting and stick it all in a folder called “Archive.”
2. Use shortcuts instead of making duplicate files.
If you’re working on several projects that all work off the same document, don’t keep a copy of the document in each project folder. Instead, decide which folder you’ll keep the original in and create shortcuts to that original in every other folder. That way you don’t have to worry about versioning problems.
3. Use descriptive file names.
This sounds simple, but it’s shocking how many people name important documents things like “Report.doc”. Put enough identifying detail in the file name that you’ll be able to discern the contents at a glance.
4. Don’t save what you don’t need.
If a coworker sends you a file for review, chances are you download it, make some notations, re-save, and send it back. Once you’ve sent it, there’s no reason to keep that file hanging around. Create a folder for these sorts of one-off files and then empty it at the end of every week by either deleting the file or, if it’s important, moving it to the appropriate directory.

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