Are you feeling overwhelmed by your digital files, ever find yourself scrolling through endless folders looking for that one elusive document? I used to have that problem all the time, but every time this happens to me, I like to do an after action review and ask myself: how, in the end, did I find that file and tweak my system to improve findability? My files were a mishmash of random names and disorganized folders and I wasted hours trying to find what I need. Over the years, I discovered these five powerful systems for organizing my files into folders: para, access, Johnny decimal, zettelcaston and GTD. I picked up a few ideas from each. Whether you're using obsidian, Evernote, OneNote, lock C, Chrome or any other Knowledge Management tool, these systems will revolutionalize the way you work with files. They will help you find what you need, avoid duplication and clutter and make sense of your digital information. So in this video, I'm going to walk you through each system, explain you how they work and help you decide which one is the right for you. But first let me ask you this: how do you rate, on a scale from 1 to 10, your current file organization? Do you have a system or do you just wing it? Share your thoughts in the comments below. Before we dive into today's topic, let's take a quick trip down memory lane.
A few months ago, I made a video about how to organize your notes using different PKM approaches. In that video, we explored a range of different strategies, from random Mass through the daily notes first and content first approaches, then the topic first approach, including zatocastan, and finally the action first method. If you missed that video, I highly recommend checking it out afterward. It will give you a solid foundation for understanding how to structure your notes and information. Today we're going to shift our Focus to organizing files into folders, and I'll introduce you to five powerful systems that will revolutionalize the way you manage your files.
But don't worry if you haven't seen the previous video. You're still going to be able to follow along and learn a lot. So let's jump in and explore these five systems in more detail. Before we dive into the five systems for organizing your files, let's talk about what makes a good folder structure. A good folder structure should reflect the way you work and make it easy to find and access the files you need. That's my understanding. Different organizational systems is so important. There are several approaches to organizing files and each has its own strengths and weaknesses.
Nick Milo's access system, for example, is designed to balance the needs of Knowledge Management and action, using both links and folders. Thiago Fortes para method, on the other hand, is folder based and action oriented, helping you prioritize and manage projects effectively. David Allen's GTD system is similar to Pera, with a focus on organizing reference information in a filing cabinet and tracking action through the use of lists. Johnny decimal is also strongly folder based, but it's more geared towards creating a reference archive than a workflow system. And finally, zettel custom is a link based system that emphasizes Knowledge Management and exploration. Now let's explore each of these systems in more detail.
We'll start with the pair method, which is a great way to get started with organizing your files. If your primary aim is to get things delivered, method is a highly effective system for organizing digital files. In fact, he uses the metaphor of cooking to explain the four key areas of his system. The first area is projects which are like dishes cooking on the stove that require your immediate attention. The second area is areas which are like items stored in your fridge that you access regularly but are not currently working on. These areas are usually long-term commitments, such as finances, home and family. The third area is resources, which are like items stored in your freezer for future use. Files in this area include topics that interest you or research materials. Finally, the fourth area is our hives, which are like items stored in your pantry that you have completed or put on hold. Then organizing new information using the para method, Thiago recommends asking three questions to help determine the best place to store the file. The first question is: in which project will this be most useful? If there is a relevant active project, store the file there. If not project related. The second question to ask is: in which area will this be most useful? If there's an area, store the file there. If the file doesn't belong to any specific project or area, the third question to ask is: which resource does this belong? To store it with the relevant resource or place it in the archives? To give you an idea of how a pair of folder structure looks like, here's a quick example. If you'd like to learn more, I cover Pera in my book on a page review of thiago's building a second brain book.
See the link in the video description. Moving on to the Johnny Decimal System, a simple and effective method for organizing your digital files based on a numbering scheme created by John Noble. The Johnny Decimal System consists of three easy to follow steps that will help you create a consistent and logical file structure that makes it easy to find and access your files. Step one involves dividing everything you want to organize into maxim10 Broad and high level areas, assigning each area a number from 10 to 90. Step 2 is about dividing each area into maxim10 more specific and granular categories, assigning each category and number from 0 to 9..
And finally, step 3 involves naming your files with a descriptive title and adding the corresponding area plus category numbers, followed by a DOT and a sequential ID number at the beginning or the end of the file name. By limiting the number of areas and categories, the Johnny decimal system helps you avoid overcrowding folders or misplacing files. And to stay on top of the ID numbers, Johnny recommends creating a separate index file to track them.
And the benefits of the Johnny Decimal System don't stop here. You can also reference the categoryid number in the subject of an email to include it in your archiving system and easily locate all elements within a category. In all your digital files and in tools like obsidian, loxic, Rome and others, you can use document metadata to add the reference number or create folders in the obsidian file explorer using the Johnny Decimal System. If you're working in a multi-project environment, Johnny suggests extending the system with another layer, the project layer.
Simply list folders for projects at the root of your file system with three digit ID numbers and then follow the area category file approach discussed earlier within each folder. Check out the link in the video description to learn more about the Johnny decimal system and start organizing your digital files like a pro. This is an Innovative framework for organizing your information, created by Nick Milo. Access stands for Atlas, calendar, cards, extras, sources and spaces. These six plus one folders are arranged to maximize productivity and Clarity. The seventh folder, encounters, is introduced in the lyt get six and is designed to capture unsorted items. Because of the seventh folder, I'd argue that access should be really renamed to e-axis. Now let's dive into the six main folders. Atlas is where you'll find high level nodes, including maps of content, dashboards and overviews. These are indispensable for navigating and orienting yourself in your personal Knowledge Management System. Calendar is dedicated to logging, tracking and reviewing time-based information. This encompasses your daily notes, meeting notes, plans, reviews and journals. Cards is where you can build and connect ideas and insights. This is the place to store your notes about Concepts, people and things. Extras houses all your support materials, such as images, manuals and templates. It's also the perfect spot for those miscellaneous files that don't quite fit into any of the other categories. Sources is where you'll store all your external sources of knowledge, such as articles, books, podcasts and videos. This is the ideal location to reference or cite your original sources of information or inspiration. Finally, spaces represent the different areas of your life, such as work, personal life and hobbies. Each space has its own maps of content areas, projects and support notes, or, in short, Maps, providing additional structure and clarity. The access folder structure is designed to help manage both knowledge and action, with knowledge at the top and action at the bottom. This approach ensures that your files are assigned a clear function and purpose, making it easy to avoid overlapping or misplacing files. The flat file structure is a file storage approach where all files and folders are stored at the same level, without any subfolders. This system places more emphasis on file naming and linking, rather than organizing files into complex folder hierarchies.
Examples of systems that use a flat file structure are the brain, ROM and loxac, while loxic and the Rome offer namespaces and the Brain can display your computer's folder Tree on its blacks. None of them have a native folder setup. One of the main advantages of using a flat file structure is that it reduces the time spent creating and managing folder structures and it makes it easier to find and Link related files. However, this does not mean that you cannot use folders at all in a flat file structure.
You can still have folders, but they will be located at the top level of your directory. When using a flat file structure, it is crucial to pay attention to the file naming conventions and use clear and distinctive naming. For instance, starting files with the date in a year, month, day format can be helpful. Maps of content files can also play an important role in a flat file structure. David Allen, in getting things done, recommends filing physical reference documents in cabinets. He offers a simple alphabetical approach in which each document gets stored in a physical folder with a label on the folder identifying the topic. Folders are stored in alphabetical order in a digital system. Zetolcaster nodes might include attachments such as images. To manage attachments, tools like the folder node plugin in obsidian can be super useful.
Similarly, the brain also automatically creates a folder for each thought their thought. Related attachments can be stored. If you're interested to learn more about zettelcostan, I have several videos on the subject, including my book on a page summary of zenke Aarons how to take smart notes.
You'll find references in the video description below. To wrap up, I shared with you some of the most popular systems for organizing your files into folders, including Pera by Thiago Forte, the Johnny Decimal System, access by Nick Milo and the flat folder structure introducing settle costan and the GTD.
These approaches offer different tools for managing knowledge and actions and linking versus organizing files and folders. While I will delve into the specifics of my own folder structure in a future video, I wanted to share with you some of my Reflections on the approaches presented today and how I am applying these in my own system. I like reference numbers in the Johnny decimal system because they offer cross-platform connections, such as bitv and my files and my PKM and my emails.
I've always been a folders guy. However, the more I think about flat structures, the more I like them, because they Place more focus on linking, which I think is important. Zato is a great way to avoid orphan notes in your PKM, because each new item must be placed somewhere in an existing chain and inbox is a crucial part of apkm system.
I like the encounters folder in Nix access system and the inbox in GTD. I find that thinking about a file path as a namespace that provides a primary ontology for a file and not as a storage location is helpful. I find it very valuable to have folders for note attachments, like in the brain. I'm currently exploring Aiden Alex's folder node plugin for this purpose.
My current idea is to use folder notes as my maps of content for each folder in my system, reflecting on Pera. I don't like to move files around, such as copying files to a project folder and then to another location after the project is completed. I much rather organize using metadata. It is also true that my dislike for moving files is partly driven by the limitation of obsidian sync settings. My PKM and my PC holds many generations of nodes. I call this a Brownfield reality versus the Green Field of building something completely in you, because I work in a Brownfield environment. This limits my freedom in applying new approaches. Finally, organizing notes is about so much more than just folders and file names. It also includes the use of tags, links, templates, ontology, maps of content, Dynamic lists, geotags, daily notes and much more.
I hope you found this video helpful and I look forward to sharing more about my own approach in the future. If you liked this video, please consider subscribing to my channel. Share your thoughts in the comments below and hit that like button. Thank you.