System overload

Written by Karen Kelly

Computers can be temperamental, prone to crashing at deadline time and hiding their glitches when the IT guy arrives. Nothing makes PCs angrier than a jam-packed memory or tons of shortcuts.

“Most people have way too much stuff on their computer,” says Charlene Laporte, an organizing and management consultant based in Ottawa, and founder of You Can Be Organized! According to Laporte, clearing up your computer doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking, it just requires a concerted effort: “You have to sit down and figure out your priorities.”

Ready to get a handle on a messy computer? Here are Laporte’s tips to help you begin:

Don’t overdo it. You don’t need to spend hours mimicking a manual filing system. Instead, invest in a program like Enfish, which runs through your directories and creates its own index file. It continuously maintains a cross-referenced master index of your e-mails, documents, contacts and web bookmarks so you can find information quickly without doing extra work.

Minimize shortcuts. “Try to keep your desktop as clean as possible,” says Laporte. “It represents clutter as well.” Sift through all your shortcuts — icons that link to files and applications stored elsewhere on your computer — and keep only those that are used regularly.

Enough hardware already. Running out of memory should be a wake-up call, but many people just install more of it. “Throwing hardware at the problem is an expensive solution and it will lead you down the road to complete chaos,” says Laporte. “You’re just putting the monster in a bigger cage.” Instead, do some serious deleting.

Set up policies. In the beginning, organizations started with a few directories in their network drives. Nowadays, a lot of these drives are no man’s land, full of random and strange files. If this is the case at your company, set up and enforce policies concerning what should be stored on the network drive. Consult your employees as to what they think is important. Says Laporte: “If the staff haven’t been able to contribute [to the policies], they won’t follow them. They have to feel like they’ve been included in that process.”

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© 2003 Karen Kelly

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