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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?