By Joe Stoddard. Computers have made it easy to packrat away all kinds of data, but not so easy to find it again. Windows sorts everything alphabetically, so if you name a folder "Very Important Projects," it will wind up near the bottom of a list, probably never to be found again. A better approach is to use a standardized numbering system. Here's how:
1. Starting inside of "My Documents," create a series of folders and subfolders representing major document categories: Assets, Jobs, Marketing, Suppliers, and so on. Pick categories to fit your specific needs.
2. Begin each folder name with a four-digit number, followed by a space, and then the name. The numbering scheme can be something you create, but it's probably better to base it on an established source like NAHB's Chart of Accounts (see www.nahb.com/builders/chart.doc).
3. Next, create subfolders inside each folder to represent individual projects or other items. Time-sensitive job folders could be named by date, and product folders by the CSI MasterFormat system number or the HomeTech Information Systems number that the item falls under, and so on. When you're done, your folder structure should look something like the one above.
The real payoff to organizing "by the numbers" comes when it's time to save a file or retrieve a document. It may seem strange at first, but over time, it'll be easy to remember, using NAHB's chart of accounts, that anything starting with "10XX" are assets, "30XX" are projects, and "60XX" are marketing materials. --Joe Stoddard, a technology consultant to the construction industry, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.