I have been struggling with my bad filing hierarchy for years. An inefficient, inconsistent, or straight up bad folder structure not only robs you of of your hard-earned time but it can also sabotage entire projects, hiding your files in the deepest, darkest corners of your hard drive, nowhere to be found ever again. I recently came up with a system that enables me to easily and efficiently store files as well as retrieve them. Follow along to hopefully also put an end to your digital storage struggles.
Disclaimer: This system proved to work on MacOS.
Here are the two key aspects that make this naming system work:
- Consistency - The most important aspect of this folder structure is consistency in naming. You might have found the holy grail of naming folders but if you don't stick with it, it will mess things up.
- Search - The one tool that changed my folder hierarchy fundamentally is the MacOS Finder's search tool. My entire naming system is based on the searchability of the foldernames.
Countless hours of searching through bad folder structures, wallowing in self-pity, and brainstorming on new ways to sort my data later, here is my approach.
In order to keep bottom level folder's names shorter, the top level is made up of a couple of overview folders. Those will separate files of differing purposes.
For me, those are
- Documents (books, essays, articles, documents)
- Timeline (random stream of snapshots, sorted only by their timestamps)
The naming system inside the Projects and Documents folder is catered towards searchability: Date_Category_ProjectName
This date format makes it easy to search for projects within a specific timeframe. For all projects of 2015, just type "2015." For all projects of October 2015, type "201510."
The category is suitable in order to discern between types of projects. For me, those are "Pro" for professional work, "Uni" for school work, and "PP" for personal projects.
The project name then finally tells you what exactly you are looking at.
After typing into the search field you can narrow down the results to the selected folder and also change the output of the search. In this case, I isolated the folders.
The system is easily expandable. Just remember to stick to the same naming principles. If you do different projects for a couple of the same clients, it might be a good idea to add the company or institution name before the project name.
For example: 20151008_Pro_TNS_BelleHooks
Within the project folders, I then create subfolders with simpler names to make them easier to navigate after you found the project parent folder.
Here is an example hierarchy:
The file names could then be something like "BelleHooks_raw_001"
I don't include the date and category in the filenames in order to not dilute the search results.
There you have it, the base structure to a working filing system. If you have any suggestions on how to expand this system, especially when it comes to new types of files, let me know in the comments.