11 Tips To Help You Manage Your Electronic Files

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published July 21, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Many businesses rely on technology to create, store and manage important electronic files. These files can include everything from financial reports and employee contact information to project planning documents and informal to-do lists. Learning about file management systems and techniques for organizing your digital documents can help you develop an electronic filing system that works for you. In this article, we define what file management is, explain its benefits and provide 11 tips to help you organize your electronic files.

Related: Records Management: Definition and Benefits

What is file management?

File management refers to the structures included in a computer's software that help you store and arrange your electronic data. Computer software with a file management system allows you to create, work with and organize files like pictures, videos, spreadsheets and word processing documents. These systems usually store and display files in a single interface or window where you can create tabs and folders to organize your files by type. For example, you might have a tab for pictures and another for documents, and you might have folders and sub-folders within each of those tabs.

Some typical file management features include:

  • Create, modify, move, copy and delete files

  • Add or edit metadata, which is the data used to describe other data

  • Track file ownership through different stages of processing

  • Generate reports for specific files

  • Determine a processing order for queued files

More complex file management systems may have features that can automatically organize files. They might scan documents for their content and use that content to file the document in a predetermined location automatically. Additionally, they may have more advanced features that help you search for and locate specific files faster than a simpler system. These advanced file management systems may be helpful for business owners or employees who need to store and track an extensive number of files and process large amounts of data.

Benefits of file management systems

File management systems have many benefits, such as improving the accessibility, organization and security of your files. These systems offer flexible options so that you can structure your files in the way that works best for you. When you can easily find and access important files, it can increase your efficiency, reduce stress and help you collaborate more effectively with others. Additionally, reducing the number of physical files you need to keep can help you store all your content in one place for ease of access.

An electronic file management system can also increase the security of your documents. Digital filing systems allow you to set permissions to limit who can access and make changes to your files. For example, you can give one employee permission to view a file while another employee may have access to change the content within the document. A well-organized system can also help you back up important files and keep them saved in a secure location.

Related: 7 Steps To Organize Your Paperwork and Declutter Your Desk

11 tips for file management

Here are some tips to help you organize your file management system:

1. Organize by type

When creating a file management system, consider organizing your files by type. For example, if you store pictures, videos and standard word processing documents, you might create tabs for each of these different file types. This makes it easy to arrange and access your different types of files.

2. Create hierarchies of folders

You can develop effective organizational structures by creating folders and sub-folders. By creating hierarchies within your folders, you can make it easier to find files related to specific areas of your business or personal life. For example, as a business owner, you might create separate folders for different departments. You might have a folder for your human resources files and another for all of your marketing files. Then, within those folders, you might have folders for employee information and payroll, marketing budget information, project timelines and progress reports.

3. Have a file naming system and follow it

Having a consistent naming system can help you stay organized. When all your files follow the same naming conventions, it's easier to search for and locate them when you need them. However, make sure to follow your naming system after establishing it. By remaining consistent, you can make it easier to search for certain types of files because they all follow the same method of naming.

4. Be specific

In addition to being consistent with your naming, also try to be specific. Use informative names that help you identify the content of your folders and files so they're easy to navigate. For example, you might name files with the date you created them. Another example is using a numbering system if you have multiple drafts of a file. For drafts, numbers help you determine which draft is the most recent, so you can be sure the content of the draft is up to date.

5. File as you work

As you work, save your files to the correct folder and then continue to save them regularly as you change your documents. By making a habit of saving your files to the right folder early in your work process, you can reduce the possibility of losing them. Saving regularly also helps to protect your work in case your computer stops working.

6. Structure your system so it's convenient for you

Your file management needs are unique to your business and work habits, so it's important to create a system that works for you. Most file management systems are flexible and provide you with options to develop your own organizational structure within the system. However, this flexibility also means it's up to you to devise a functional system. When devising a system, consider your work preferences and file management needs. Think about what filing structures make the most sense for providing you easy access to the files you need most often while also protecting the security of your work.

Related: The 24 Best Free Project Management Software Tools for 2021

7. Delete or archive old or unused files regularly

Another way to ensure your file management system stays organized is to remove files or folders you no longer use or rarely need to access. Cleaning out old files ensures that your system remains free of clutter that may make it harder to locate relevant documents. Some filing systems include an archive that can store documents that you rarely access but still need to keep. An archive can store these files in a secure location while minimizing how much space they use in your computer's memory.

8. Back up important files

As part of your file management process, make sure to save backups of your most important files regularly. Backups ensure that if your computer crashes or hard drive fails, you can still access your files. A backup creates copies of your files and saves them to either an online account or an external hard drive. By saving copies of your files to a different location than your computer's hard drive, you have a way to access them on other devices.

9. Be flexible

If it's your first time creating a file management system, try a few different structures to find one that works for you. It can take time to learn what organizational structures work best for your habits and preferences. Additionally, if your work changes, you may need to update your organizational system to match your new responsibilities. Being flexible and taking time to think about what parts of your system work and which parts you can improve may help you adjust your system in the best way for you.

10. Consider Cloud storage

Cloud storage refers to computer software that allows you to store, access, create and manage files using a global network like the internet. Cloud storage had many advantages, such as allowing you to access files remotely, automatically saving backup copies of your files and simplifying the process of sharing and controlling external access to your files.

For example, when you save a file to a cloud storage system, you can access it on any device, from any location so long as you have access to your account. You can choose which files others in the cloud network have access to, which makes it easy to share documents with coworkers and employees. Cloud storage can be a convenient option for someone who uses multiple devices to manage their files or collaborates regularly with others.

Related: 11 Benefits of Cloud Computing

11. Use a note-taking application

Finally, using a note-taking application can reduce the number of temporary files stored in your system. If you like to keep notes for thoughts, ideas or daily tasks lists, you might choose to use a note-taking application rather than storing these scraps in a more formal document system. Note-taking applications provide a convenient way to write your ideas without having to save them to your computer. This can reduce clutter and minimize the number of files saved to your computer.

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