The digital space is constantly changing. What was once trend and viral yesterday quickly gets replaced in a matter of weeks (or even days). Depending on your generation, you may not give too much thought to your digital life and how it should be managed in terms of your financial planning strategy. Consistent file management is a good practice that will save you time and money!
Your digital life isn’t just your social media profiles - it’s much, much more. It’s your personal files on your computer, your cell phone and any other digital device you may have (like a tablet or smart watch). It’s all the things you probably hold very, very dear, like pictures, music and video of a personal nature.
If you own a business, chances are the majority of your professional life is managed digitally. It’s not just your invoices, receipts and other digital documents. It’s product photos and video, legal documentation, staff files and more.
Like it or not, having a digital asset management plan is essential to a comprehensive financial plan. Though “digital asset management” is a term that usually applies to professional businesses, these practices can be applied to your personal files, too!
Don’t worry - we won’t go into the trenches of data architecture, but we certainly will scratch the very important surface of digital document and content management.
If you don’t have any interest in digital asset management software, here are simple steps to start organizing your digital life.
Step 1: Do a Digital Audit
What does your desktop look like? Is everything in a neat little folder? Can you see the picture on your background? Or, is it an endless jungle of pictures, audio and PDF’s?
It’s important to begin by evaluating the types of files you have, where they are all stored and how they’re named.
If you store everything in your “Documents” folder (or, worse, nothing ever gets moved from your “Downloads” folder) with no discernable method of finding them other than using the “search” tool for what you might have named it, now’s the time to change that.
Use pen and paper and write them down by file type, if you want. Use a spreadsheet or a note taking tool. Whatever your desired tracking method is, you need to take stock of your digital belongings.
Step 2: Organize, organize, organize!
Regardless of what you’re sorting, the types of files will probably fall into one of four main categories: document, picture, video or audio. From there, you’ll “nest” your sub-category folders within. Your goal is for every file to have a home folder, regardless of the type of file it is.
Sorting some files will be simpler than others. If all of your pictures are dropped in a big digital junk drawer folder, you’ll now have to decide how you want to sort and name them.
The easiest way to sort is to first set up your file location hierarchy with a logical method that will be consistent with all of your files. What this means is create the folders BEFORE you start to sort, from top to bottom.
Determine whether the file type is a document (.doc, .pdf, etc), a picture (.jpg, .png, etc), a video (.mp4, .imov, etc) or a sound file (.mp3, .wav, etc) and start sorting.
For example, let’s say you’re sorting invoices for Client A. You may decide to have a folder for every client you have, or you may just have a master invoice folder and have a separate client folder within it. How you do it is up to you. If your desktop is your “root” (see: foundation) place:
Desktop > Client A > Documents > Invoices > Year > Month
Once you have the folder hierarchy set up with those 4 main categories, you can easily add subcategories based on their file type.
From there, you’ll have to determine a naming system for your files. You want to have a consistent method of naming your files to make them easy to find and sort. Determine the keywords you’d want to use. Don’t get overly complicated with your naming system, either. You don’t want to look at your folder 6 months from now and wonder what “PB_105” means.
Be descriptive of the contents as simply as possible.
For example, for a wedding photo, having the file name be Wedding _Year _Person’s Name in the photo title might be an easy and clean way of sorting wedding photos, either your own or one you attended.
Bonus Tip - Online Accounts
This list will be more extensive than you initially think! Write all of your online accounts down by type or category.
Everything has to be included, like social media, financial, entertainment and shopping accounts (these are just a few). And, there will be multiple accounts under each category. Once you have your account audit complete, make sure you have your passwords and usernames for all of them written down or secured in a digital location.
An important note on passwords: Some individuals use a master password for everything, but security experts don’t recommend such a practice. If you’re concerned about remembering a different password for absolutely everything, you can use secure password programs like LastPass or Dashlane. Both have free and paid versions, depending on your needs or if it’s for business or personal.
Check back next week for more digital asset management tips in Part 2!