The Habit of Keeping Your Digital Workspace Organized


  The Habit of Keeping Your Digital Workspace Organized

If you're anything like me, you've received a ton of helpful advice on how to improve your organization skills. From what must-have apps and equipment to how to actually create a clean workspace, there is no shortage of tips out there. So what's the most important piece that nobody ever talks about? The way in which we organize our digital work spaces.

How many times have you been tasked with handling digital files for work or school? I'm willing to bet that it's been more than once.

I'm originally from Boston, and one of my biggest complaints about living in the Kansas City area, is the lack of consistency when it comes to digital file storage. For example, I worked for a video production company who handled all their work through Google Drive. Some editors used Windows PCs, others used Macs with Final Cut Pro, while others still just used Google's own cloud browser service. Other firms had on-site hard drives and shared folders on network drives yet others used cloud-based computer systems such as DropBox or Box (and I'm not even mentioning video editing software). It was an absolute nightmare.

When I got my first editing gig as a freelancer, I was instantly thrown into the deep end. In addition to having to organize my own files using Final Cut Pro X, I also had to organize the project files for the company I was sub-contracting for. Likewise, when I crossed over into the world of video production, there were different file requirements that had to be met depending on the client. It seemed like every time a client changed their mind on how they wanted something done or an editor and myself began working together, we would have to completely re-examine how we stored our project files.

The reason I bring this up is that if it isn't already apparent, the digital world is becoming more and more complex. Gone are the days where you could transfer files to a DVD and send them off to a client by mail. Today's client demands digital delivery of their content. We are also seeing an increasing amount of companies moving from paper submission processes (1) to digital submission processes (2), thereby decreasing our need for a physical workspace in favor of a cloud-based environment that is always accessible no matter where we go.

So how is this all affecting our work space? It's hurting it.

Spending hours upon hours trying to find that one stray file that is the cause of a client's project being late or not meeting its deadline is not time well spent. This may seem like a no-brainer, but I can promise you, it isn't. For the sake of this article, let's assume we're talking about video editing and not filing tax returns. If it takes you half an hour to sift through your folders and find one file that will ruin the entire project (Rebound is a particularly bad offender), you may have just lost half an hour of your day.

If you're anything like me, this is not the level of organization you were hoping for.

The good news is that there are steps that we can all take to improve our digital file management skills. The first thing to do is decide where you want your files to be located so that you can prioritize what needs to be done with making sure it's done first. As far as digital storage goes, I've been using the same location since I was in college (I know, my old laptop is almost eight years old). For my work on clients and personal projects, I have a folder on my main computer in which I keep all of my projects. Within that folder are sub-folders that are named after the client, vendor or project title. Once I've finished a project, I move all of its supporting files into that folder and then create an archive of it for future storage/backup purposes.

I also keep a similar set up on an external hard drive. Within this drive, I have a "Videos" folder which contains all the same folders as my main desktop so that if there's ever a need for me to work off-site with another computer, I can do so without any hassle. For both my main hard drive and external drive, I keep all of my project files in the root directory, which includes a version history, metadata and a folder for each individual project. This organization makes it easy for me to find any specific piece of content across all of my projects. For example, if I need to look inside a particular project folder from one client or vendor for any reason, it's just a matter of opening that folder and looking through everything inside without having to search every single project file individually.

Another way that we can improve our efficiency is by using programs like Dropbox or Google Drive as long as we are aware of their limitations when working within an actual workspace. Both programs, as well as more expensive options like DropSend, are designed to sync files across multiple computers. They can be a huge time-saver when working across multiple computers and can help to ensure that all of our projects are updated no matter which computer we happen to be on. However, these programs (and DropSend in particular) are not meant for long-term storage of content because their backups are only as good as your Internet access. If you do plan on using Dropbox or Google Drive, make sure to regularly check the backup status of your files so that you're aware if any data has been lost (I personally use Backblaze for my online backups).

These are all great methods to get your projects organized outside of the actual workspace, but one of the most important things that you can do to improve digital file organization is by actually being able to find them when you're inside a workspace.

One thing that I've found useful is using a tagging system where major folders are named after their respective category of content. For example, I have folders named "Clients", "Archives" and "Videos" that are all in the root directory of both my server and hard drive (see above). I also use things like keywords and tags to find specific content when uploading it to a particular project folder. For example, if I'm working on a client's website, I'll use keywords such as "website" and "site design" to help me find specific content that falls into each of those categories. A similar approach could be taken for videos or any other types of work files.

I've even found that just organizing by basic categories (such as by type of editing software used) takes my organization skills up a notch in terms of being efficient.


Digital storage is to our workspace what a first aid kit is to the workplace. It's an important tool that makes our work easier while also giving us peace of mind knowing that we'll always have all of our work available when we need it. By taking the time to organize our digital files, we're also making sure that there isn't anything distracting us from whatever project we're working on at any given time.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article and I hope you found it helpful.

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