After You Clean Your Desk, Clean Your Office (and Your Computer)

Lawyerist.com seems to have a theme going. Today I read Improve Your Practice with an Uncluttered Office which also referenced the clean desk article I previously discussed. One point of the article is that clutter wastes time and the author states that “Even “paperless” offices can have computer clutter, making it difficult to find a particular form, template or motion that you know you did, but that you cannot remember where or how you saved it.”

I think that digital clutter is even more of a problem that physical clutter. There is only so much space to hold physical junk, even the people profiled on A&E’s show Hoarders have to cram their belongings into whatever size space they have available. But with digital junk it is much easier to let things pile up, even if you do not have a medically diagnosed pathological condition (but if you do, here are some resources).  Hard drive space is relatively cheap these days and it is so easy to save multiple drafts of documents, scan every piece of paper that enters your life and worst of all copy all of these files to another folder so that you end up with multiple versions of the same file.

I spent hours yesterday, letting the process run in the background while I did actual legal work,  transferring files from several different external hard drives onto one big network drive and I plan to go through the files at some point to purge duplicate and unneeded files. Our office servers have not been cleaned up in quite a while either but it seems like such a daunting task to undertake. I am probably the only person in the office who knows how much open hard drive space we have and I’m sure there are few people around the office that give any thought to creating duplicate files, either intentionally or by accident.

Another reason I think digital clutter is worse than physical clutter is the time required to sort and review the files, especially if they have nondescript file names. I can pick up a stack of paper and run through it pretty quickly to see that it can all be trashed but it could take considerably more time to process a group of Word document or PDF files if the file names do not provide enough information. I am still looking for some quality file preview software that would allow me to see what the file contains without having to open the file in the native program. I have used Explorer View with good results but I am interested to see what other people are using on their Windows computers for this function. I am also in need of some affordable (or free) duplicate file fixing software that can scan network drives.

How do you handle digital clutter? What are your recommendations for software to help with this problem? I would appreciate any insight you have.

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