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How to Collaborate on Multiple Documents with Multiple People

If you're working on a group project, it can be hard to keep all your documents organized and accessible. Get-It-Done Guy has a few simple tricks to help you stop wading through shared files aimlessly and get to the business of collaboration.

By
Stever Robbins
Episode #543
Collaborating workers typing on laptops.

Electronic files are great! You can have Text Files, Google Doc files, Mac iWork files, Microsoft Office Files, and thousands more. You can have big files, small files, blue files, new files. You can have them on a box. You can have them with a fox. Computers have given us the chance to have files galore.

We can put things in folders where we can use them later. Even better, we can share those folders with other people so they can use the files, too. We can coordinate in ways our ancestors could only dream of…or can we?

File Libraries Grow Over Time

Europa, secret ruler of the Eastern Bloc, has a new batch of world leaders working for her. She got tired of the old ones. They were far too competent. A couple of them actually made decisions that revealed independent thought. That won’t do, so she quietly had them replaced.

In an effort to get her many puppet leaders up to speed, she has given them all access to the World Domination folder that the now-defunct world leaders used for sharing files. It has every single document used to coordinate her dastardly plans, going back years. Every. Single. Document.

They look for files on how to destabilize a democracy, but instead they find the canapé recipe from Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s royal wedding reception. Tasty? Yes. Destabilizing? Only if you have a gluten allergy.

“Election Rigging Schedule Coordination” (you can’t rig all the elections at once, or people will notice). “Preferred money laundering accounts” (lots of Deutsche Bank account numbers). Talking points for the news channels that spread the best propaganda, and so on. Everything they need is somewhere in the folder. Life should be perfect!

But it isn’t. Each world leader starts hunting through the files, but there’s no rhyme or reason. They look for files on how to destabilize a democracy, but instead they find the canapé recipe from Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s royal wedding reception. Tasty? Yes. Destabilizing? Only if you have a gluten allergy.

New People Need Help Finding Everything

Accumulations have an indexing problem. There’s no way for a new person to find stuff. And it’s not just new people. You, a year from now, may also be lost. When you’re in the middle of a project that you’ve been working on for a while, you know where everything is. But once you’ve been away for a bit, it’s easy to lose track.

You remember there’s a file of oligarchs who can help fund your secret hacker army, but you have to hunt through a dozen different files before you find the most current version.

Now that we’re living in the age of the internet, the cloud, and file sharing, however, there’s an easy workaround: use the documents themselves to be your short-term memory. And not just your short-term memory—everyone’s short-term memory.

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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. 

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