When it comes to our surroundings (car, home, office, etc), we all know that it's important to keep things tidy and organized. While very few people can function well in a non-organized environment, the vast majority of us need organization. Chaos only complicates things... unnecessarily.
So why is it that even though we understand this concept, we let disorganization take over our computers? This is a question that I've tried to find answers to for a long time. I know some really organized people who suffer from VDCS (Very Disorganized Computer Syndrome). This makes it very difficult to find files, finish projects and generally use their computer in an efficient way. While I'm nowhere near perfect, I wanted to offer a few tips that will hopefully encourage you to think about ways to be more organized.
Avoid a cluttered Desktop
Walking into a messy office is like walking into a vacuum of creativity. It's very difficult for the two to coexist. While messiness scares away creativity, cleanliness encourages it. The same principal applies to your Desktop. The Desktop is usually the first thing that you see and experience when you turn your computer on. Avoid saving too many files to your Desktop. If you must save files to the Desktop (like I do on occasion), create a temporary folder called "Work in Progress", and save the files inside that folder. This will help to keep your Desktop looking clean and clutter-free. Here's what my Desktop looks like:
Remember: this folder is temporary. When you're done using the files saved here (ideally within a week), be sure to delete them or move them to a more permanent home.
I met a user once who saved everything (and I mean everything) inside their "Documents" folder. Music, movies, audio files, documents... everything. To make matters worse, they had no folder structure inside that folder, so every single files was just listed out. When I asked if this made it easy for them to find their data, their response was, "Not at all, but it's the way I do it". Setting up a well-planned hierarchy of folders can make it realy easy to quickly find the files you're looking for. A good foundational set of folders may include "Family", "Personal", "School", "Work", etc. If it makes sense to create additional folders within those folders, then don't hesitate. Within the "Family" folder, for example, you can have another folder for each of your family members.
Mac OS X has the ability to color-code (i.e.: tag) files and folders. Using these colors properly can go a long way to keeping you computer organized. For example, the color blue could be designated for anything personal-related. When you're looking for personal files, simply look for blue-colored files and folders. The same principal applies to color-coding your schedule.
Purge and archive
Most people have a rule for around-the-house organization. If something hasn't been used for a year or more, get rid of it. Obviously, there will always be exceptions to that rule, but in general, I love it! It's the idea that purging your old junk can go a long way to helping to keep your home organized. The same applies to your computer use. If you haven't used a file in an extended prior of time, it's ok to dump it. However, before you do just delete the file, it's definitely worth asking the question... is this something that I will want to access again at some later time? If the answer is yes (which is likely the case for most files), then look to archive it on another drive. Not everything has to be deleted. Archiving old data is a great idea. Hard drives are so inexpensive, it may be worth having a drive or two set aside for archived projects and files.