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We’ve all lost track of how much time we spend searching to find documents and files that we created or someone else created.

We’ve all used the 🔎 search bar 🔎 in our email, Google Drive, Dropbox, SharePoint, etc., and have sat there scratching our heads thinking, “what did I name that?” or “what did they name that?”

54% of surveyed US professionals said they spend more time searching to find documents and files than they do responding to emails. Yet we treat content management as a low priority, and we don’t put effort into consistently and intuitively naming our records.

Content management encompasses documents and spreadsheets, photos, graphics, videos, etc. These are increasingly valuable assets with remote teams, online business, marketing, and legal / compliance.

When we can’t find these digital files, we often recreate them. Teams spend 13% of their time on work that’s already been completed and have experienced a 31% increase in duplicating work. This results in you and/or your people, and ultimately your business, spinning its wheels instead of moving the needle forward.

Working with small business owners, leading content management projects, and at one time holding the title of Information Management Lead, I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen different versions of the same file named ‘X’ and ‘New X’ and ‘Newest X.’ I’ve gone cross-eyed, looking at convoluted folder structures and mapping out how to consolidate them. I’ve witnessed files that can’t be found and have to be recreated. So.much.time.wasted.

On the flip side, spending a short amount of time now on content management will :

  • Increase productivity
  • Prevent duplication of work
  • Save time
  • Reduce the risk of losing critical records
  • Outsource for maximum ROI

Tips to organize and find documents and files

Start now

Instead of waiting till you can do a big file clean-up project, start with your new structure today. For clean-up, use the slow times in your business or outsource to a virtual assistant or administrative assistant to work on this.


Determine folder structure starting with the structure of your organization (i.e., departments). Determine the right level of specificity – there is no exact science, but as a rule of thumb, more than 3-5 folders in a hierarchy can lead to confusion. Keywords are helpful in folder names.

File names

File names should include keywords to help with searchability and identification. The file name should indicate what the file is, and you can use keywords from the folders it’s saved in. Include dates and alphabetical or numerical characters to indicate sequence.

If you want something to be top of the list, start with 0 (zero). If you want something at the bottom of the list, start with Z.

Utilize tags

If your content management system allows for tags (aka metadata), these are a great way to make your files easier to find. Tags are keywords that describe the file and/or its contents and can be used for searching and filtering.

Example below

The below graphic demonstrates one way to name documents for searchability.

Sometimes it’s really the basics like file names, and NOT fancy automation or adding new systems, that saves time, increases productivity and reduces risk.

Have comments, questions, or want more information? Leave a comment below or email me at

Graphic showing an example of how to organize and find documents and files with folder structure and file names