Have you ever gotten so frustrated trying to locate a file or email that you, like the young boy Max in the famous book, “Where the Wild Things Are,” transform into a wild and malicious beast and wreak havoc on your computer? Ok, so maybe that’s a bit exaggerated, but most experienced computer users have felt the frustration messy file and email storage can create. In the book, Max manages to intimidate the creatures and is crowned king of the Wild Things. Well, you can become king of the “Wild Files” and return home to an organized digital filing system for your own happy ending.

How? Here are five tips to help you organize your files and folders, especially in a shared environment, be it an internal server or a cloud-based system:

Tip #1: Communicate and Collaborate
Before you can get your digital files organized, you need to bring all the applicable users together. Talk about the issues created by sloppy or otherwise poor file management. Focus on efficiencies gained or lost by inefficient file storage and together establish strong guidelines and shared expectations on how information will be saved and stored. In the story, Max gathered all the Wild Things together—it’s important your organization does the same to get buy-in on new strategies.

Tip #2: Review and Strategize
You need a clear picture of your current data organization, especially shared filing spaces. This is a good time to think about workflows in your organization, compliance and/or retention requirements, and the like. With this information, develop high-level storage structures. Ideally, you can use the same storage structures not only for data files but also other digital information like email. Like Max, you can tame the beasts and create order if everyone knows what to do.

Tip #3: Be Consistent and Concise
Develop a consistent file naming standard that is descriptive but concise. For example, at IT Radix, all our proposals and quotes always start with the client name which is consistent with our core value of Client First. This connection to our core value makes the name standard easier to remember. Whenever possible, use abbreviations and numeric dates instead of full-length dates, such as “2015-07-01” instead of “July 1, 2017.” You’ll noticed we recommended international date format—this makes it easy to sort revisions of the same file.

Tip #4: Be Descriptive
Don’t sacrifice clarity just to keep your file names short. Folders with descriptive names are important in breaking groups of files into smaller, easier-to-manage and identifiable units. In some organizations, a good starting point might be to create folders by department. In other organizations, a project orientation may be a better methodology. Often, it’s a combination of the two approaches. Again, back to Tip #1—don’t be like Max and sail into uncharted waters alone; be sure to include all the appropriate parties when developing these descriptive folder hierarchies.

Tip #5: Leverage Technology
Office 365’s SharePoint document libraries or a third-party document management system can allow you to establish categories, tags and ratings to find files quickly and easily. These technologies have excellent search capabilities as well; so, if one of the Wild Things does pop up, you can still find what you’re looking for without turning into a Wild Thing yourself.

Don’t let an unorganized file system create havoc in your organization. By using these tips, you can leave the land of the Wild Things behind and streamline not only your file storage but also your work processes.

First published in our July 2017 IT Radix Resource newsletter