Trying to streamline filing

Reading through “Take Control Of Managing Your Files”, and thinking through file management. A lot of my challenge is in naming things in the first place, and in particular that “inactive” stuff gets mixed in with “active” stuff, so the “active” stuff is much harder to find.

If I’m understanding some of the book’s suggestions properly, they’re suggesting shuffling folders in and out of “storage” as projects become active / inactive. Quite literally, a kind of “skeuomorphic workflow” where you “take out the folder” and “put the folder back”.

I haven’t done much with that, but I remember that workflow from way, way back in the early days of computers.

Do any of you do something like that? Do you have any system organization thoughts you’d be willing to share? :slight_smile:

I use Finder tags to mark folders or files.

  • due - folder/file has a deadline
  • active - folder/file is currently an active project (this week)
  • course - folder/file is associated with a course that I am teaching
  • post - file is to be uploaded to a server
  • … (others)

The Finder tags reside in my sidebar.

The Finder tag approach would seem to require less effort compared to the literal analogy of moving folders/files in and out of “active” or “inactive” locations.

I also keep three folders on my desktop: inbox, active (tagged with the above Finder tag), file. This allows me to sweep up the distracting clutter of files and folders that otherwise accumulates on my desktop.



This is cool info - thanks!

I’m assuming “inbox” is anything you haven’t decided on a location for.
So is “active” a “smart folder” that just references the “active tag”, rather than a manual collection of those folders?
And is “file” basically the “filing cabinet for everything else”?

For work activities, I have an “Active” Folder and archive folders named by Year. I also have an “On Hold” folder

  • 2020
  • 2021
  • Active
  • On Hold

I name each folder for the new work item YYYYMMDD e.g. if I wanted to create a new procedure starting today “20210330 - New Document” and it goes into the Active folder. If at any time I put it on hold, it goes in the “On Hold” folder until I take it out. Anything which is abandoned or completed goes into a folder for the year it was completed.

If I want to revisit something I completed. I copy the folder out of the Year archive folder into Active and change the name to today’s date.

Although I have not done this (yet), an interesting idea would be: If you tag your folders (not files) with contextual tags as @DrJJWMac suggests, such as due, active, course, etc, then you could create SmartFolders in Finder with the search criteria that the Kind is Folder and the appropriate tag (“due”) is present.

That would give you SmartFolders in your Finder sidebar, for example, that you could easily click to see all of the folders for projects that are “due” or “active” or whatever.

Thus, the folders themselves can be located where is appropriate in your file system organization, but it is easy to quickly get a view of all of your active work, and by adding and removing said tags you make a project active or inactive as needed.

I use a folder tagging system in which all tags on folders start with an “@” character and I have a workflow in Alfred that allows me to quickly open those folders, and a custom directory search function in zsh that lets me quickly move to those folders in a shell. I may use a different tag character to label folder in this manner to create parallel system for experimentation.

inbox – takes the folders/files when they are first generated (e.g. on the desktop)
active – gets folders/files that I have yet to put in a specific Documents folder location and that are active
file – gets the inactive files/folders that are now to be filed away (rather than trashed)

It is somewhat set up along the lines of a getting things done process flowsheet.

Admittedly, the inbox tends to become simply a dumping ground to clear my desktop clutter and the file box becomes overloaded with things that I have to go and dig out again (because I should have put them away directly rather than putting them into the global file box). I ascribe this to my work load on the front of firestorms. In real life GTD, the review process would keep the top and bottom boxes (inbox and file box) cleaned out on a more routine basis.


In case this was not quite clear, the tags are already appearing as favorites in the sidebar. I only need to click on any one of them to see the folders or files that have been assigned those tags.


@DrJJWMac Of course, I got that. However, making the SmartFolder makes visually locating it easier when you have a large list of tags, as I do. Just a convenience; not necessary if you can easily find the tag on the sidebar.