Within hands reach

Posted by Dermot Crowley on 20th March 2017

A friend of mine who was a chef by trade once shared with me how he was designing his new kitchen at home. He had a small but trendy apartment and did not have a lot of space to play with, so he had to think long and hard about every detail.

One thing that really stood out for me was his thinking around the cupboards closest to his cooker. He designed these so that he could put the pots, pans and utensils that he used most frequently within hands reach. These essential tools had to be accessible without moving away from the cooktop, so that he never let anything burn because he was looking for something on the other side of the kitchen.

I reckon that the same applies to your document filing folders on your PC. How often are you clicking into level after level of folders looking for a document that you use frequently? How much of your time is wasted every time you send an email, or review a report, or look for a spreadsheet? If you are like most people, too much time!

I recently reconfigured my document filing system with this idea in mind. I was frustrated  that I can comfortably file all my emails into one filing folder and find them quickly using the search tools in MS Outlook, but hadn’t achieved the same ease with my document filing. While I can also search for documents in Windows, the search capabilities are not as powerful as Outlook, and I still feel the need to create some structure with my document files.

I started by deleting as many folders as I possibly could. Folders that were no longer of value, or maybe never were. I then got to thinking about my chef friend. The folders that were left were still organised in multiple levels of folders and sub-folders. I realised that just like essential cooking utensils, there were certain folders that I accessed every day, and other folders that I accessed every now and again. Yet in my system all folders were given the same priority, and were stored on the level that made contextual sense, rather than the level that allowed quickest access.

Of course! What I needed to do was make the folders that I accessed most frequently highly accessible, while allowing the folders that I used less frequently to sit at a lower level. My solution to achieve this was to simply create a structure like the one below:

Business Systems

Financial Management

Program Development


                Productive Leadership


                Smart Teams


Sales & Marketing



The key to this system is the Archive folder that I created under each of the five main folders in my structure. This is where I put the bulk of folders that I had under Program Development in this example. But I realised that Productive Leadership, Images, Smart Teams and Whitepapers were the four folders that I accessed most frequently, so they sit at the top level under Program Development, while everything else is hidden away, but accessible if I do need them every now and again.

This is a good example of the Pareto principle in action. I am making the 20% of folders I use 80% of the time more accessible and easier to see at a glance. While I still need to click one level down to access them, that is better than the six levels I had to travel with the old system. I used the same Archive folder solution in each of the five main folders I use, and now accessing documents is much faster.

Could you save some time by restructuring your folder system? Put everything in hands reach and you won’t get burnt again!

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