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Your business tip of the month: Make your files easy to find

Unleash your inner-nerd and sort out the files and folders on your computer with one simple fix.

This month, a nifty tip you can start using straight away to make your business life a little bit easier.

If you’re a business person who works with recurring date-based documents – such as invoices or accounts - this advice could be a revelation.

It’s simply this:

Name your files a certain way and they will always appear in your folder in date order – and this will make them really easy to find if and when you ever need to refer to them again.

You just start the file name with the year, then the number of the month, then the day in the month (YYYY-MM-DD). It’s a format we don’t naturally use very often, but because a computer’s operating system orders files first numerically, then alphabetically, this is the only way to make files appear in order – from the beginning of time to the end of time!

It’s an easy but highly effective way of getting yourself organised and saving stress and hassle in the future.

Let me show you what I mean.

Imagine you’re a business that often sells stock to Bob’s Bikes. Your folder of invoices might look something like this:

Bad file names

Let’s say you want to find the invoice from 1st May 2015.

Your task is made more difficult by the fact that the files are named erratically – and as I’ve said, your computer arranges them numerically first and then alphabetically (our natural inclination is to start the file with a word).

Now suppose the folder looked like this:

 Better file names

With all the files named in the same way - hey presto! - they're all in order and it’s much easier to find what you’re looking for.

Imagine three times this many files in the folder and the tip is probably three times as useful.

I’m not suggesting you should necessarily do this retrospectively because this will probably cost you more time than it’s worth – but you could start doing it from today in the knowledge that the files you’re saving will be a doddle to find in the future.

The same organisation rules apply for folders, too.

So, let’s say you do have a large number of Bob’s Bikes invoices in the same folder – you might want to break them down by month.

Great, but when you do you’ll see they are arranged in alphabetical order:


The geek in me – and maybe the geek in you – wants to see these months appear in calendar order and make the folders easier to find.

So, I simply name them with the number of the month first, in the two-digit format – so that they run from January to December just as they should. Take that, Microsoft!

 Good folder organising

I told you it was a nifty tip – name your files and folders with YYYY-MM-DD at the start and you’ll never struggle to find them again.