Peo­ple use their com­put­er desk­top in count­less dif­fer­ent ways.  My uncle uses his to store short­cuts to all of the appli­ca­tions that he uses reg­u­lar­ly.  Sev­er­al of my friends prefer to keep theirs entire­ly bar­ren, pre­fer­ring instead to work out of fold­ers buried some­where deep in the com­put­er.  I had a man­ager once that insist­ed all of the files and fold­ers on my com­put­er should be arranged alpha­bet­i­cal­ly..

Per­son­al­ly, I’ve always treat­ed the desk­top as a work area and tend to group files con­tex­tu­al­ly or by project. Hav­ing groups of files direct­ly in view helps me keep tabs on what I’m try­ing to accom­plish and keep­ing them grouped log­i­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant­ly sim­pli­fies the task of find­ing them when you need them.

The Achilles heel of this sys­tem though is when things get busy and I stop orga­niz­ing my files.. This is when I know I’ve tak­en on too many projects. If you expe­ri­ence the same thing, this arti­cle is for you..

The last sev­er­al days have been com­plete and utter bed­lam for me, and this evening I real­ized why.   Upon a quick review of my desk­top I found this unmit­i­gat­ed dis­as­ter; full of files and snip­pets of par­tial­ly com­plet­ed and stalled projects. In a word, unman­age­able.

disorganized desktop

So, what to do about this?

The obvi­ous answer is, fin­ish a few projects. But what if this isn’t pos­si­ble?

  1. Start by delet­ing any unnec­es­sary files
  2. File any­thing that you don’t need imme­di­ate access to in your ‘doc­u­ments’ fold­er
  3. Orga­nize the remain­ing files in to log­i­cal groups.   This will be dif­fer­ent for every per­son, do what works best for you whether it be alpha­bet­i­cal, chrono­log­i­cal or by col­or of icon.
  4. On occa­sion, if I know I’ve got a few ongo­ing projects that need to be orga­nized I’ll take one addi­tion­al step that helps keep me in check.

  5. Cre­ate a desk­top back­ground in an image edit­ing pro­gram like PC Paint or Adobe Pho­to­shop (or Pixlr)  with dividers between which you’ll store your work­ing files and fold­ers.  I use small­er box­es to lim­it the num­ber of files I can store for a par­tic­u­lar project (thus lim­it­ing the amount of unfin­ished work I will allow for each).  Label each box to enforce a place for every­thing and don’t for­get to leave your­self a sand­box where you can place files through­out the day while you’re deal­ing with them..  I try to ensure that my sand­box is emp­ty at the end of the day to make my life eas­ier the next morn­ing!

A few addi­tion­al notes:

  • To find the size of your desk­top
    • In Win­dows: right-click the desk­top and choose prop­er­ties and click the set­tings tab to see the screen res­o­lu­tion
    • On a Mac: Open the dis­plays pref­er­ences pan­el and click the dis­play tab to find the res­o­lu­tion for your cur­rent mon­i­tor
  • Con­sid­er cre­at­ing mul­ti­ple desk­top arrange­ments for dif­fer­ent groups of tasks or addi­tion­al screens

I’d love to hear your thoughts!   How do you orga­nize your desk­top, and does this sys­tem work for you?