How to Organize the Digital Workspace and be Productive (Step 6 of 12)

I found that creating a consistent system for organizing the digital environment has been a challenge for myself as well as others throughout the years. After going through several resources and doing things by trial and error, I came up with a system that works the best for myself. I have had others try this as well and it has seemed to work for them as well. 

What Makes A Great Digital Workspace Organizational System?

  • Easy to Implement
  • Easy to Remember
  • Allows You to Easily find Files
  • Allows you to Quickly organize any incoming Digital Files
  • Is Reliable and Complete

How to organize the Digital Workspace for Maximum Productivity? I believe the best approach is to create an organizational system within your three main folders of Active Projects, General Reference, and Pending Review (See Step 5 on how to declutter the digital workspace). Creating a simple yet comprehensive system and sticking with it will allow you to process any incoming digital files with ease! 

Just like the Physical Workspace, The Digital Workspace has only the 3 main folders: Active Projects, General Reference, and Pending Review. Below is the organizational process I use for organizing my 3 main folders to help me process ANY incoming digital files. 

If you completed up to Step 5, then you should have sorted all your digital files in each of these 3 Folders already. Now let’s start working on organizing all of those files to create a Digital Workspace that Maximizes Productivity!

What You Will Need:

Time needed: Approximately 1 full day (more or less depending on how many files you have)
Materials needed: Your personal computer or laptop

The Process of Organizing the Digital Workspace

I would say go through each of the 3 main folders and completely organize them with the proposed system. Go in the order of Active Projects, General Reference, and lastly Pending Review. 

Start with the Active Project Folder because it probably contains the files that you need to be able to organize and access sooner rather than later. The General Reference Folder can be organized aftwerwards. 

The Pending Review Folder should be organized last because files in there will eventually need to be organized into the Active Projects or General Reference Folders.

Organizing the ACTIVE PROJECTS Folder

The Active Projects Folder is for projects that are truly active and related to items you are currently working on. Have a folder for each project inside of the Active Projects Folder. If there are loose documents that do not have a folder, create one for them. This is how I name my active projects folders. I name using the due date followed by the title of the project. 

For example, this website was a project with an expected release date of July 1, 2019. The folder was labeled 2019.07.01 Physician Zen Website Release. If there is no specific due date, I would at least put a year.month approximating when it is due (example: 2019.07 Physician Zen Website Release) and update it once a more accurate date is determined. Once I use the sort folder function by “name,” all of my projects will then be sorted by due date. 

Tricks of the Trade
Most people will just label documents by name and then date. That makes it almost impossible to organize and sort. I suggest doing the following: Project Name. That way you can sort documents easily by the due date! 

Projects organized and sorted by DUE DATE!

Go ahead and organize all of the files in the active projects folder using this system.

Organizing the GENERAL REFERENCE Folder

Organizing the digital general reference folder is similar to your physical general reference folder. When you see a specific file or document, what are the first words that come to your mind. Use that as the folder label. Start organizing all of your files into those general folders. I don’t think you need to be very specific with the folders unless you need to be. Having the overall folder that the files go into is usually sufficient. 

Here is a basic set up of digital folders to help you get started on organizing your General Reference Folder

  • Work Files
  • School Files
  • Music
  • People
  • Travel
  • Vehicles
  • Pictures
  • Manuals-Instructions-Warranties
  • Finances
  • Home
  • Health
  • Software
  • Journal Articles
  • Someday/Maybe Projects

Within each of these categories, you can add sub categories such as

  • Work Files
    • Completed Research Projects
    • CME Certificates
    • Timesheets
    • Completed Presentations

For journal articles here are the categories that I would suggest:

  • Allergy-Immunology
  • Cardiology
  • Dermatology
  • ENT
  • Gastroenterology
  • Gynecology
  • Hematology
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Musculoskeletal
  • Neurology
  • Neurosurgery
  • Obstetrics
  • Ophthalmology
  • Pharmacy
  • Psychiatry
  • Pulmonary
  • Rheumatology
  • Surgery (Gen)
  • Toxicology
  • Trauma
  • Urology
  • Vascular

If you notice above, I also added a Someday/Maybe Projects Folder. This folder is for any digital files that you are thinking of possibly creating into a project in the future. Place them in this folder, and in a later step, we will introduce a process for you to review this folder on a regular basis to see if it is a project that should be active. 

Organizing the PENDING REVIEW Folder

These are the files that still need some type of action or have not been decided upon. At this point I would perform the actions needed to clear this folder. Some of them just need to be sorted to the correct folder in the Active Projects or General Reference folder. 

It could be a document that needs to be filled out such as a reference for someone. If it will take you less than a couple of minutes to perform the action, just do it and either get rid of the file if not needed or place in the Active Projects or General Reference Folder. 

This folder is equivalent to the top tray of your physical workspace. You will need to clear the pending review folder daily. The Pending Review Folder will be the source of ALL of your digital input and a focal point for you to focus what you need to sort. Leaving files scattered all over your physical or digital workspace is a distraction and will make you less efficient. You NEED a central place where all incoming digital files will go to and that is the Pending Review Folder! 

Tricks of the Trade
By default, operating systems will have any newly downloaded files go into the default “Download folder.” From my experience, this becomes a hub of lost and forgotten documents. 

Better way: have all of your browsers and email programs download to the Pending Review Folder. This way, you will get an accurate picture of all of the files that need to be sorted in one central hub. 

Where Do You Put the 3 Main Folders and How to Access them?

After you have organized all of the 3 main folders, it is now time to take all 3 folders and place them somewhere. 

Personally, I place my 3 main folders in my Dropbox folder, and it syncs between my laptop, 2 desktops, and iPhone. This way I have a copy of all of my files stored in the cloud and I can access them anywhere from all of my computers or phone. If you don’t use Dropbox then I would suggest putting it in your main system folder. 

Just 3 Folders is all you need!

My “Pending Review” folder is something I strive to clear daily. I create an “alias” of the Pending Review Folder and place it on my desktop. An “alias” is also known as a “pointer file” since it is points or redirects to an actual file or folder. 

The nice thing about creating an alias is that the actual Pending Review Folder is located in the Dropbox folder (or your main system folder). The alias icon can be deleted without affecting the actual Pending Review Folder. You can tell it is an Alias folder because of the arrow on the bottom left-hand corner of the folder (for Mac).

Alias of the Pending Review File (Black Arrow signifies its an Alias Folder)

So when you are done the ONLY thing that should EVER be on your Desktop, is an Alias of the Pending Review Folder. Strive to clear this folder everyday by organizing the files in there into your Active Projects or General Reference Folder!

How to Maintain your Digital Workspace

If you finished organizing your 3 main folders of Active Projects, General Reference, and Pending Review, you should feel an immense sense of relief and clarity in your mind. Remember what this feels like because you want to get to this state EVERY DAY. 

Just like how you need to maintain your Physical Workspace every day to maximize productivity in the Physical Workspace, you will need to do the same in your Digital Workspace. The good news is that you have a process for handling any item that may come into your Digital Workspace. 

All new items will go ONLY into your Pending Review Folder. Let me repeat, All new digital files will ONLY go into the PENDING REVIEW FOLDER. That way each day the only folder you ever need to sort and organize is your Pending Review Folder! Having an organizational system with your Active Projects and General Reference Folder will allow you to quickly and efficiently sort items in your Pending Review Folder.

I recommend completely sorting and organizing your Pending Review Folder once a day, so it doesn’t build up and it also creates a habit of clearing your Digital Workspace.  

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[…] Original detailed blog post on how exactly how to organize your digital files can be located here: HOW TO ORGANIZE THE DIGITAL WORKSPACE.  […]

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