Have you ever thought about your desktop productivity? For most of us, our computer desktop resembles a big cluttered chaotic working table. It’s a very common place, and we overlook it’s power. Some hate the messiness, other may think of it as a creative mess that fuels their creativity. Whatever the case, we must manage the desktop space one way or another otherwise eventually we’ll get lost in the clutter. What follows in this article is much more than beautiful placement of your desktop apps, but rather taking closer look at some productivity methods and how you can apply them daily in a simple and effective manner.
Photo by Carl Heyerdahl
Good Organization is Easy and Beautiful
Many people get dizzy when they think about them-self as an organized person. It seems like you have to be a very stiff and tight person to have a well organized space, but this is not true. When you have set up a good organization for your space and yourself if it was well done, it should be easy, flexible, natural, not stiff. Stiff organization will soon break. It will make you work too hard, and you will abandon it too soon. Go for easy, light, minimalistic and flexible, this is a general philosophy that applies well to your desktop productivity.
Desktop Space? What is it used for?
Most things in nature are ever changing. For many people, the desktop wallpaper is the most important change to their desktop. Wallpapers are beautiful, but functionality of your desktop is even more important. Some of the things that can be even more dynamically changing than wallpapers are processes and project. How is this relevant to your computer desktop? As technology is making great advancements, it gets more and more blurry to what the purpose of the computer is. It’s a similar story with the evolution of phones. In the past, it was very simple, easy and obvious, phones were used for making calls, but recently smart phones can do almost anything. This is not a bad thing, but we must find a proper way to think about and relate with the devices. Think about how is your desktop productivity fitting into the big picture. Also what you apply to organizing your computer, you can use as a general principle, almost everywhere.
PRACTICAL TIP: Think of the computer in a very general way. What do you use it for? For me, it came down to, (1) keeping files and info (2) doing miscellaneous tasks. This may not seem very helpful information, but we’ll use it as a basis for good organization for our desktop.
Find the Task Flow for Maximum Desktop Productivity
As I have hinted in the previous paragraph, one of the important “jobs” of your computer is to help you get a diversity of tasks done. This is a similar problem to what big factories are facing. Often they have many employees that do very different tasks, but a manager will have to make sense of it all and manage everything together. One way that has gained lots of popularity is a Kanban board. It simple and it works. How? Every task is considered to have a life cycle: scheduled > in progress > revision > done . As you can see, the whole process is moving towards completing tasks. We won’t just copy and paste a Kanban board to the desktop, but we’ll use the basic concept.
Kanban Adaptation for Your Desktop
Since we are talking about a personal computer in this article, all that tasks and roles are done by yourself. First you acquire information or files. It can happen when you browse the internet and you find something you like, or you may receive an email, social networks, personal
notes, photos etc. Whatever the case, first you need to capture that information quickly and decide what to do with it later. The desktop is a great place to initially keep files and information. But that is only the first step, to keep your desktop productivity levels high, you can’t just leave all those file lying around forever.
Here is what you can do. Divide the desktop in 3 parts(at least in your mind).
1. Captured (unprocessed) – you haven’t decided what to do with these files yet.
2. To-Do – you have examined the information and decided what needs to be done.
3. Store and Archive
So, this is your basic workFLOW : to-do(captured/unprocessed info) > in progress(your projects and task) > done (archives and finished projects)
Tips on Capturing Large Number of Files
Even if you have a rather large monitor, saving more than 20-30 files to your desktop will start to feel overwhelming. Hopefully you don’t often do this, but there may be times when you need to save a large number of files and review them later. It’s okay to create new folders
and each of them can store big number of files, it’s wise to not even try too much about the names of this kind of folders, sind you don’t really know what exactly is inside. You can leave them as “new folder” or “untitled” or even “review this 1”. They should be reminders
that you need to process that information and decide if it’s something you need to do about it store it in your archives for reference or simply discard it.
– Don’t let files pile up for too long
– Decide what action is needed
– Remember there are basically 3 main actions you can take: (1)store it for reference, (2)use it in a project, (3)delete it.
Tips on managing “In Progress” files
One of the hot-spots of your desktop productivity schema is the “In Progress” area. All doers love this place. One of the simplest ways to deal with this is to have a folder for each ongoing project. If you have more than 7-8 ongoing projects, try suspending some of them for a while, or clean up you “in progress” are by quickly completing the easy tasks or projects. People are not very good at multitasking, so try to keep only a handful of active projects. You can have a, “On Hold” folder for your suspended projects, but aim to empty it, and even delete it when there are no more suspended projects. If your “On Hold” folder gets too full and you don’t really come back to it, it will lose its meaning. Once you complete a project, store it in your archives for reference.
Tips on structuring Archives
You decide how you will structure your archives, and it really depends on the nature of your work or preference. The very least you should try to keep is an archive of finished projects. Make sure you add good keywords and dates when naming those folders, because they should be search-able. After a while, if you are a person who loves getting thing done, you will have a big archive or “finished projects”, for me keyword search is enough, I don’t want to add too much structure. Other than “finished projects” you can store all kind of multimedia, that are not necessarily,
project specific. With hard drives ever increasing capacity these days, some users can eve afford to have 2 copies of a file. One in a “multimedia library” and another in a project or theme specific folder. This way you are more likely to find what you need, when you need it, faster.
Here are some of the file archives you may consider:
– finished projects
– multimedia resources (may be useful for future projects)
– personal documents and photos
– fun folder (movies, games, sci-fi books, favorite music, comics…)
– theme specific archives ( example: web programming references )
Good Organization Makes a Difference
The difference between good performance and a mind-blowing one is always in the details. Don’t overlook the simple tools and procedures you repeat every day. If you do it often, it’s worth the time to improve it. Hope this article helps you make great use of your desktop space, and inspires you to create a better self-management strategy. We are not the only ones discussing the importance of the topic covered in this article, so feel free to explore more. Here is a nice closely related article that can give you even more ideas ( how to design and create a clean organized desktop )