Reader Nick submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:
I’m curious what strategies you’ve come across to declutter a group drive, such as in the workplace? Do folks structure their group files by situation, by file type, by projects, or by user? Something else entirely?
The necessary, but always disorganized, shared network drive is unfortunately a staple in many offices. It exists so that there will be a nightly backup of company data and for employees to easily share their information with each other, but that is often where the benefits end. Unless your company has a mandated filing system, people will save data to the shared drive any way they please.
My first piece of advice is to never store files by user name. People resign, get fired, and are promoted too quickly for it to be a valuable structuring method. The same is true for storing data by specific job titles — the Vice President of Marketing might become the Vice President of Corporate Outreach without any change in duties, offices, or staffing.
My advice is to organize by the kind of work your business or organization completes. If you’re at a business with a handful of clients, have folders based on client name and subdivided into projects. If you’re at a business that creates products, have folders based on the product and subdivided into projects relating to those products. If you are a non-profit or a service-based organization, you can probably get by on simply organizing by projects.
A standardized file naming structure can also help: YearMonthDay_project_document.extension or 20090508_Ask_Drives.txt
A naming structure such as this allows you to identify when the file was created (May 8, 2009), what project it relates to (Ask, for Ask Unclutterer), and its topic (Drives).
Honestly, though, what matters most is the search program you have associated with the drive. If you can access the drive with Google Desktop or Copernic Desktop, you should be able to find whatever file you need with these powerful search engines. They are your salvation when the filing system is so far gone that you can barely find the files you added to the drive.
What advice do others who work on shared drives have for Nick? Please let us know your ideas in the comments.
And, thank you, Nick, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column.
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