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

Name and group these folders according to how you think you’ll actually want to find the information. So you may want to keep a diary for a few weeks where you record what information you end up needing, and what you’re thinking when you need it. You might find out, for example, that you rarely look up information by Syndrome and often look it up by Biological Cause. In that case, you would want a containing folder called Biological Cause.

Drag and Drop Your Knowledge

You now have the Master Architecture of Your Knowledge in place! Bwah hah hah hah ha! Now it’s time to put the knowledge itself in the right buckets.

Simply drag your existing files into the folders where they belong. You can organize them all without getting a separate link for each one, as you’d have to do if you were copying links into a master document.

Voilá! You’re getting organized at light speed! Until …

Make Copies to File in Multiple Places

You find a file called The Effects of ADHD on Stealing. You really want to file that in both folders ADHD and Stealing. On your desktop computer, you could put the file in one folder, create an alias to it, and drag the alias into the other folder. But file aliases like that don’t work with cloud platforms.

So instead, make a copy of the file. Drop one copy in ADHD and the other in Stealing. The copy will have the word Copy added to the end. Leave it there, and drag the copy into the other folder.

You’ll put a copy of the file in both folders. When you later find the information, the word “copy” tells you the original is somewhere else. You can use search to find all the copies with that name.

Turn Bookmarks Into Web Shortcuts 

Bookmarks to web pages are a bit trickier, since they live in your browser’s bookmarks. But never fear! All modern browsers let you create a desktop shortcut to a web site. On the Mac, just drag the address bar of a site onto your desktop and it turns into a desktop file. Drag that file into place in your reference hierarchies and you’ve filed the bookmark in that same topic folder.

To drag a Google Doc into a reference folder, open it in your web browser. Then just drag the shortcut from the browser bar. Or you can choose File ▸ Download as… in Google Docs to download a copy of your Google Doc as a Word or Excel file. Then put that file into your reference folders.

Now celebrate! When you need to find resources on a topic, just navigate to the folder on that topic. Since you created the topic folders aligned with how you will refer to them, navigation will be easy! Inside the topic folder, you’ll find all the relevant files and shortcuts, organized with simply drag-and-drop.

Share Your Knowledge

If you want to share files with someone, you can do that on an as-needed basis. Most cloud services let you right-click any file stored in your SyncBox and copy a sharing link that you can then give to a colleague. You can share a single file or a whole folder. Even if you can’t do it directly from your file browser, you can go to your account on your SyncBox’s site and get a sharing link from there.

Rest easy, Corrie! This will take a little work to set up, but it gives you a unified way to organize all your files and shortcuts so you can find them easily. Your folder names provide the organization, and anything inside can be dragged, dropped, or copied with ease.

I’m Stever Robbins. Follow GetItDoneGuy on Twitter and Facebook. Preparing a house to sell? Getting the kids ready to head to college? A Get-it-Done group can help you finish the project. Learn more at https://www.getitdonegroups.com.

Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!

Organize computer image courtesy of Shutterstock.


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.