The Best Way to Name Your Files (3-Step File Naming System)

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- [Scott] What is the best way to name your files?

Let's find out in today's video.

Hello everyone, Scott Friesen here at Simpletivity,

helping you to get more done and enjoy less stress.

And you probably already know

that the way that you structure your folders is important,

but what's so much more important

is how you name your individual files

so you can go and find them

and retrieve them when you need to.

So in today's video,

I'm gonna show you three different components

that you should include in each of your filenames.

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When it comes to naming your files,

there are many different approaches that you can take,

but I think you only need three key components,

a date, a file subject name and a unique identifier

or some other special code.

So let's take a look at all three of these components,

see why they are important,

and also look at the different ways

in which we can order them.

Here you can see in this example

I have a few files that have a date at the beginning

and this is great if you are managing files

that need to be sorted by a particular date.

Now it's true almost every file system

will include a last modified date

and also you'll be able to find

when that file was first created.

It doesn't matter if you're in Drive

like the example I'm showing you here

or if you are on a Windows or a Mac computer.

But in many cases,

the last time that the file was edited

or when it was created is not the most important date

so you may want to include something more specific.

I'll give you an example.

I give a lot of presentations

and so for me I don't care so much

as to when it was last modified

or when I first created that file.

What I'd like to know is when did I last present that file.

When did I actually deliver that

as part of a speech or as part of a live workshop?

So I will often include a date

at the beginning of those files.

Now we wanna go one step further

and make sure that we list our dates in a proper order.

Here you will see I have things listed

in year, month and then day order

and we're using two digits for both month and day.

Now this is really, really important.

This has nothing to do with where I live in the world

or the country,

whatever date format that your country follows,

the reason why we want to follow year, month, day

is because it will always sort properly.

As you can see in these first four files here,

I'm starting in 2017

and things are sorting properly down to 2018

including at the month and the date level.

And that's always going to be the case

if we follow this format.

Now I've seen some people

who omit this little dash in between

so the numbers are all together.

You've got an eight-digit number.

I prefer to have a small dash in between.

I just find it that much easier for me to read.

But as I'll be showing you

a little bit later on in today's video,

you don't necessarily need to start with the date.

We'll look at the pros and cons of having that

at the beginning of your filename.

Now the second component of this filename

includes a subject line

and I'm gonna spend very little time here

because this really depends on so many different factors

as to what does this file include,

what's the purpose of this file.

I think the key thing here

is that you should be adding a few keywords

letting you know and perhaps other people

that you may be sharing this file with

what exactly should they expect when they open up this file.

In this case, I have labeled this Client_Email_List

and you'll also notice that I've added underscores

between the spaces within that filename,

but also between the date

and the unique code or identifier at the end.

This makes it a bit easier to read

rather than this one down below where I've had no spaces

and I've just got VendorTrainingContract

all smashed together.

The reason why underscores are still important

in this day and age is that there are some file systems

who may replace a space with a funny character.

You may have come across a situation

where a filing system has thrown in a percentage sign

in between any original spaces

or they will try and put in underscores themselves,

but if they can't,

sometimes they will simply collapse those spaces

and the entire thing will end up looking like this

with everything jammed together.

So you may want to get used to adding underscores

to your filenames.

Not only does it make it easier to read here,

but as you share your file with others

or as other people share them with you,

you can keep that proper spacing in between.

And remember, you don't know what type of system

where you are sending this file to.

You don't know what they are using

and so how it may convert the name of your file.

Now the last component here

is what I call a unique identifier or a special code.

And I've got a few different examples here.

I've got this one which I've labeled draft

letting us know that this is the draft version

of this particular file.

In the next two, I've added some initials.

So here SDF I can see that I am the author or the creator

or maybe I was the last person to touch this file

so I've got my initials at the end.

Here I've got someone else's initials

signifying that perhaps they are the author.

And then I've got one last example here.

This one is VER2 as in version two

letting me know the version status of this file.

And as you can notice, I've put everything here,

this last component in all capitals

unlike the subject name itself

which is just in regular text.

This makes it stand out that much more

that I've put this in all capitals.

I can tell that this is a different component

or an add-on of that filename.

Now again, you need to decide what it best for you

in terms of what makes the most sense.

Does putting a version number make more sense to you?

Does having the initials of yourself or someone else,

does that make more sense?

Let's take a look at a few other examples down below here.

Here you can see I've put the subject name first,

then the unique identifier and then the date at the end.

Now the nice thing about this format

is that if I have a bunch of contract templates

or maybe I have a number of different things

that start with contract,

maybe this next one is a contract email template

and maybe this is a contract paper template,

something like that,

I know that everything is going to sort properly

with contract first within this folder

and that may be most important to me.

Here you can see I've got the different version numbers

showing up next and then I have the date at the end.

Last but not least,

I've got one last revision

or different ordering of these three components.

In this case, I have the code or unique identifier

at the beginning.

I've got the subject name in the middle

and then again I've got the date at the end.

And again, this can be great for sorting purposes.

In this case, I've got some purchase order numbers

and maybe that's what's most important to me or to my team

is that we sort in the order of purchase numbers.

So in this case by starting with that code

or that unique identifier,

it's always going to sort properly here

and I still have my other information to the right.

So no matter what you do as a part of your business,

maybe you're an educator,

maybe these are just your personal files,

I would encourage you to include these three components,

a date and don't forget that order,

the subject name or the filename

with some descriptive keywords

and then a code or a unique identifier

as you can see here at the end

or in our examples here at the beginning of the filename.

As it pertains to the precise order,

well that's up to you and it may also depend on the folder

that you're keeping these files in.

I hope you enjoyed today's video

and I would love to learn from you.

What do you think of these three components

and do yo have some additional ways

in which you order your files?

I'd love to hear from you so be sure to leave your answer

in the comments below.

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to the Simpletivity YouTube channel.

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and don't forget to leave me a message

in the comments below.

Remember, being productive does not need to be difficult.

In fact, it's very simple.