When you love Dropbox like we do, you start syncing more and more stuff. The more stuff you sync, the harder it is to organise. Here’s a simple way to sort quickly and stay organised across multiple computers
We’re going to deal with two things here: organisation and synchronisation. Organisation is the big part, since that relies mostly on your (whereas synchronisation relies almost entirely on Dropbox). We’ll tackle that first, then take a look at some of the issues you may encounter when syncing almost everything you do on your computer. While these organisational ideas came about by using Dropbox, many apply universally to any modern file system. Some will require Dropbox, but you can still use most of these organisational ideas without it.
Dropbox starts you off with a bunch of folders, and rather than change a bunch of things we’re going to keep organised by building on that. Before we dive in, let’s take a look at the folders you’ll want to have in your Dropbox. Once you have those, we’ll discuss how to use them.
- The Dump
- The Landfill
- Your Flex Folder
- Shared Folders
Alright, let’s get started!
The Dump and the Landfill
We are not perfect. Like many diets, organisational systems expect us to simple curb our flaws for the sake of bettering ourselves. You’ve only got a limited supply of willpower, so how you organise yourself needs to recognise that. The Dump is all about having a place for your imperfections. You need to have a work folder where you can just save things arbitrarily. Starting on the first day of your week, everything you’re creating gets saved to The Dump. It doesn’t matter what kind of file it is or what kind of project it’s for — if it belongs to the current work week it belongs in The Dump. If you take lots of screenshots, change the location of those screenshots to The Dump (here’s how to do it in OS X). Whatever you create and whatever assets you use to create it, make sure this is where they go first.
These two folders will be the most important part of how you keep things organised in your Dropbox because they allow you to be a little lazy, but it’s important to not just let everything flow or you’ll become overwhelmed as it gets later in the work week. When you’re working on something new, even if you think it might only require a file or two, make a new folder inside of The Dump to contain it. Do not make efforts to spend time organising the dump, but definitely take a second to keep similar files together so you can move through The Dump quickly while you’re working.
Projects and Documents
Your Flex Folder
The reason this is necessary is because my Flex Folder is sort of a combination between active projects and archived documents. Everything I save into my Writing folder could end up staying there untouched indefinitely or could be very active. The problem is, I don’t know which category each piece of writing will fall under. As a result, having a Flex Folder for writing lets me organise these documents with that extra flexibility. If you do any kind of work that doesn’t allow you to apply the active/archive structure, a Flex Folder is often the answer.
Because we’re syncing all of these folders between multiple computers, it’s easy to end up with a machine that requires a certain application that isn’t installed. While it’s not that hard to download what you need online, it’s annoying to have to stop your work to search for the application you need, wait for it to download, and then getting back to work. If you’re focused and in the zone, you want to minimise these problems as much as possible. Keeping installers for commonly used applications in a synchronised folder will help you do that. While you’re not going to keep big installers in here (like Photoshop, for example), it’s a great place for smaller installers for those applications and utilities you can’t live without. As an added bonus, if you ever need to share an app with a friend you can do that directly from your Dropbox.
Movies, Music and Photos
If you’re using a free Dropbox account and surviving by referrals, chances are you’re not going to have enough space to sync your rich media. If you’re paying for an account of 50GB or more, however, Dropbox can do a great job of handling your media.
Customise and Be Flexible
I deal with more files (and different types of files) than the average person and this is a system that’s worked really well for me. It’s about as ideal and perfect as I could possibly ask for and it makes my life easier every day. That said, you’re not me. You do different things, have different talents and flaws, and could be a very different person. If you want to implement this system, the first thing you should do is assess any doubts you might have. Chances are most of these ideas can help you stay organised and productive across your multiple computers, but only if you put a lot of yourself into the way you implement them. Do not follow this verbatim, but try it out in a way that suits your needs best.
If you have any suggestions for improving this system or just want to share how you made it work for you, let’s hear it in the comments!