How to Organize Reference Files

Get-It-Done Guy has a simple way to unify your scattered files and bookmarks to create a comprehensive reference system using a mix of the cloud, shortcuts, folders, and sharing.

Stever Robbins
5-minute read
Episode #546

Get-It-Done Guy podcast listener Corrie writes: 

"I am a school psychologist. I have a ton of resources that I often need to refer to—bookmarks, articles saved on my hard drive, resources in a Google Drive, and stuff in Dropbox. When someone says, 'Hey, we need a behavior plan for this kid who is stealing,' I need to quickly find all the relevant info. How do I do this? And how do I get everything into that resource without going through every single file and entering it on a Google Doc?"

Hi, Corrie! I feel your pain. I’ve been using the internet for so long that some of my files are stored on stone tablets. As you can imagine, it’s hard to share them. Not only are they heavy, but the dust on the stones dries out my hands. I use hand creme to protect my sensitive skin, and then my hands get so slippery the stone tablets slip through my grasp, fall, and shatter on the floor. There’s probably a deep life lesson here.

In episode 543, How to Collaborate on Multiple Projects with Multiple People, we discussed creating master project documents. The master document includes a discussion of the project and links to related files. Master project documents keep everyone focused on just the files that are currently active.

Your situation is different. You want to be able to find the hundreds and hundreds of files and bookmarks. But you only need to find any given file when you need it. 

Search May Do the Trick

This may be a case where simply searching is all the mechanism you need. Give your files descriptive names like “behavior plan for youth stealing” and a search for “behavior plan” or “stealing” will turn up that file.

Do the same with your bookmarks, and you can just search in your bookmarks list to find the resources you need.

This makes it easy for you to find resources. It doesn’t help you share those resources with others, however.

Gather Your Files in One Place

Using a cloud syncing service like Dropbox, Box.com, pCloud.com, or Sync.com, you can solve all the problems at once. Yes, all the problems. At once. Eat your heart out, Albert Einstein!

For the rest of this episode, I’ll talk about a mythical cloud service called “SyncBox.” Just substitute the name of whatever cloud sync service you really use. (Or send me a whole bunch of money and I’ll happily feature the cloud provider you want me to in future episodes).

Design Your Reference Structure

First design your reference structure. Think about how you want to find relevant links and files. You might have files about specific behaviors like Stealing or Distracted or Fighting. You might also have files about underlying causes or syndromes: ADHD, Psychopathy, Broken Homes, Changeling.

Create a folder for each of these topics. You can also group related topics into folders of higher level topics.

For example, you might have a folder called Behaviors. Inside that folder are three folders: Stealing, Distracted, and Fighting. You might have another folder called Syndromes with four folders: ADHD, Psychopathy, Broken Homes, and Changeling.

First design your reference structure. Think about how you want to find relevant links and files.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.