At university, back in the early 2000’s, my computer was a tornado. Files with no folders. I had no clue how to create a folder, never mind a sub-folder. I also didn’t save multiple drafts of my files. Instead, I had one file per essay topic. One wrong move, and I’d have no backup file replacement.
Luckily, my system for backing up files was to print them out. To make things less time-consuming, I’d crumple up past versions of the essay and toss them on the floor. My papers were often crumpled ankle high, spread throughout the entire office, and served as a fire hazard instead of an archive. It was a wading pool of academic ideas.
So, how should super-students go about organizing their computers?
Here’s a logical system you might choose to adopt:
Choose your “Documents” folder as your main directory. After all, the “Documents” folder comes automatically with Windows operating system, assuming you’re using Windows. So why not use it? Within your “Documents” folder, create two separate folders: one for “University”; the other for “Everything Else.”
Within your “University” folder, create folders by year: “2022,” “2023,” “2024,” and “2025.” Within these folders break them down by semester: “1-Fall Semester, “2-Winter Semester,” “3-Spring Semester,” and “4-Summer Semester.”
Within each of these semester-based folders, make folders for each course you’ve enrolled in or intend to enroll in. Your “1-Fall Semester” folder might include “Math 211 Linear Algebra,” “PSYC 300 Introduction to Clinical Psychology,” and “ENGL 250 Poetry.”
Nest subfolders within these course folders. For instance, if you have a course folder called “COMS 111,” then insert in that “COMS 111” folder some subfolders labeled “Exams,” “Essays,” “Quizzes,” “Presentation,” “Class Notes,” and “Reading Notes.”
Make sure to insert within these “Exams,” “Essays,” “Quizzes,” etcetera subfolders, an additional layer of subfolders called “superseded files,” “supporting materials,” and “final version.” For instance, in your “Essays” folder, you might have an essay on Socrates. But don’t just have one “Socrates” essay; have multiple ones: Socrates-Draft-1, Socrates-Draft-2, and so forth. In that case, you’ll want to save your most recent draft in a folder called “final” and your earlier drafts in “superseded files.”
But be sure to clean up old files on a regular basis. Archive them in the superseded folders or in the supporting documents folder, depending on which folder makes more sense. Do this clean up of files at least once a week.
Regularly back up files on a cloud server or an external hard drive—or better yet, both. An external drive is just a big old memory stick. You plug the USB cable into your computer and treat it just as you would treat a memory stick.
On a final note, why not get a little adventurous and map out all the courses you want to take for your entire degree? Put the courses in each year ‘s semester folder. You can always change the classes later. You’ll have a road map you can adjust over time. And nothing gets us closer to the promised land than well-structured directions.