Level-Up Strategy for Organizing Your Digital Life

2014.10.30 by Prescott Perez-Fox

Level-Up Strategy



With the gradual takeover of the paperless office, and our personal reluctance to keep physical things in our already-crowded home studios, staying organised often means keeping your digital files in check. The most important strategy you can employ — if you haven’t done so already — is to create for yourself some kind of naming convention. Perhaps we’ll cover this topic in more detail at a future date, but for now assume there is no correct or incorrect way to do this. Anything is always better than nothing.

Once you have that in place, try this strategy: Don’t create versions.

Specifically, don’t label anything as version 2, or rev4, or v3a_Joe_v4_no-for-real_yes-this-one, for example. This common practice — or as I might deem it, a common mistake — is often used to indicate an incremental advancement of a particular document or project. Version 3 is one newer than version 2, obviously. Instead, apply linear thinking to this challenge. Acknowledge that the most recent version of a file is indeed the most current version in time, and therefor favour a time-based naming system. Here’s an example.

HSBC_45432_AnnualReport_20141030.pdf is some iterative version of the annual report for HSBC. But tomorrow’s file will be HSBC_45432_AnnualReport_20141031.pdf.

I prefer to use the date format YYYYMMDD (with leading zeroes) for two main reasons. First, any computer system will arrange these dated files in chronological order. Otherwise, you and your computers alike will be tricked where files are arranged by month rather than by year. Recent years like “11” will come way before “99”, making it tough to find older files. It’s like Y2K all over again. (Side note, Windows and Mac arrange files with numerals differently in their respective file-browsing system.) Writing the year with four digits eliminates potential confusion by being thorough and unique. A small price to pay for only two extra digits.

The second advantage to this method, you’ll eliminate confusion over the formatting in examples like 120506 — which could be December 5th, 2006, or May 6th, 2012. Leading with the current year will immediately jump out to the viewer. Whether he’s American, European, or based anywhere else, he will recognise “2014” and infer that you’re writing the date in a descending order. There is no standard convention, in any country, to start with Year, but then skip down to Day, and conclude with Month (eg YYYYDDMM).

If you need better resolution, use the time as well as the date. The above example might now read:

HSBC_45432_AnnualReport_20141029.1315.pdf, which was created 1:15pm, not to be confused with HSBC_45432_AnnualReport_20141029.1729.pdf, which was created at 5:29pm.

 Same rules apply: you’ll want to use leading zeros and 24-hour time to idiot-proof your naming system. No one can mistake 17:00 for 5:00 if it’s written as such.

That solves the problem of iterative progress, but what about alternative versions, which would be compared to one another? The problem of choice, often presented as alternate options, can be expressed in the language of web design with an “A-B” test. Simply label the files A and B. Keep going and you have 26 options to choose from. To continue our example above:

HSBC_45432_AnnualReport_A_20141029.pdf and HSBC_45432_AnnualReport_B_20141029.pdf were created on the same day, and compared against each other. But at some point in the future we may find only HSBC_45432_AnnualReport_B_20141107.pdf, showing us that this is the B version, taken further.

Staying organised, and having a system, is like doing a favour to your future self. You’ll be able to recognise patterns and see decisions you may not remember making. Better still, other people who are working from the same system will be able to infer the same just by following the pattern. You’ll all be singing from the same hymn book.

This strategy for naming files may seem cumbersome, but I’ve seen it in action. It works. Files are kept separate and confusion is averted. Projects are relived without opening a file. Headaches are avoided.

Do you have another strategy for naming your files? How do you handle versioning?

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The Busy Creator Podcast, episode 29 with Brand Strategy Consultant, Copywriter & Author Susan Gunelius

2014.10.27 by Prescott Perez-Fox

The Busy Creator 29 w/guest Susan Gunelius

The Busy Creator Podcast, episode 29 with Brand Strategy Consultant, Copywriter & Author Susan Gunelius

Susan Gunelius (@susangunelius) is a 20-year marketing veteran who has worked in corporate environments for some of the largest companies in the world. Today, she’s on the agency side as President & CEO of Keysplash Creative, which offers brand strategy consulting along with writing and all marketing communication services.

In addition, Susan has written 10 books not only on marketing, branding social media, and technology, but also on subjects like the marketing of Harry Potter. She now contributes her marketing expertise to sites like Forbes and is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Women On Business, an award-winning blog. Our conversation moves from working with clients to managing an agency of one and the habits required to author a book.


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Field Report: How Armin Vit & Joel Duggan Structure Their Mornings

2014.10.23 by Prescott Perez-Fox

Field Report

There is an increasing trend among solo creative pros and small business owners — a structured morning that aides productivity and creativity. Here’s how two prolific creatives make it happen.

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The Busy Creator Podcast, episode 28 with Writer, Professor, and Filmmaker Adam Harrison Levy

2014.10.20 by Prescott Perez-Fox

The Busy Creator 28 w/guest Adam Harrison Levy

The Busy Creator Podcast, episode 28 with Writer, Professor, and Filmmaker Adam Harrison Levy

Adam Harrison Levy (adamhlevy@earthink.net) is a Professor at the School of Visual Arts in New York City as well as Wesleyan University in Connecticut. In addition, he writes for Design Observer and works as a freelance interviewer/filmmaker for the BBC.

Our conversation meanders and gets slightly meta. We acknowledge the odd circumstances of a professional interviewer being interviewed by an amateur, and of two Americans discussing their love for the BBC.

Read some of Mr. Levy’s articles and learn more about his film work via Adam’s profile on Design Observer.


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Pro Tip for Maintaing Fitness and Balance in Business

2014.10.16 by Prescott Perez-Fox

Pro Tip

Creative professionals across the spectrum will agree that spending time away from your desk is essential for maintaining balance and staying energised. Here’s a tip to help install some good habits.

Set “away from desk” hours in your calendar. Ban yourself from your desk during that time.

Limiting the amount of time you can spend face down in your work will force you to focus on the task at hand, and not just float around the internet waiting for clients to email you back. It will also help you wrap up for the day and get a good night sleep.

Whatever your preferred hours of working, stick to them and defend them. Don’t let other people clutter up your most productive hours, and don’t try and trick yourself by half-working for 24 hours a day.

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The Busy Creator Podcast, episode 27 with Video Producer & Director Christopher Sharpe

2014.10.13 by Prescott Perez-Fox

The Busy Creator 27 w/guest Christopher Sharpe

The Busy Creator Podcast, episode 27 with Online Video Producer Christopher Sharpe

Christopher Sharpe (@csharpe) is a writer, director, designer, blogger, and builder of internet things. Following an early career in traditional filmmaking, he’s currently the producer of two popular online video shows, Yoga With Adriene and Hilah Cooking.

Our conversation focuses on the nuts and bolts of producing video with a limited crew, as well as the inevitable drama that comes from working full-time in online video. Christopher’s work can be seen on his website, ChristopherSharpe.com, and you can see check out his book, YouTube Black Book.

Listen to the episode below and click through for examples of Chris’s video series.


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Level-Up Strategy for Maintaining Up-To-Date Backups of Your Files

2014.10.09 by Prescott Perez-Fox

Level-Up Strategy

I have come to embrace the adage of our computer age:

There are two types of people: those who do back up, and those who will back up

After losing hundreds of photos to a hard drive crash way back in high school, I’ve become religious about backing up files ever since. But too many of us still don’t have a seamless, continuous backup system in place.

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The Busy Creator Podcast, episode 26 with Still Life Photographer Christine Blackburne

2014.10.06 by Prescott Perez-Fox

The Busy Creator 26 w/guest Christine Blackburne

The Busy Creator Podcast, episode 26 with Still Life Photographer Christine Blackburne

Christine Blackburne is a commercial still life photographer based in New York. She works primarily in the fashion, cosmetics, and jewelry sectors, bringing her stylish use of colour and light to her images.

This conversation moves from Christine’s origins as an assistant photographer, to how she sets up her still life shoots, and a bit about working with an agent and managing workflow.

Click through to the full blog post to see a few of Christine’s images, and check out her site, christineblackburne.com, to see even more.


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Words to the Wise

2014.10.03 by Prescott Perez-Fox

Being in a crap job isn't your fault. Staying in a crap job is.

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My Two Favourite Ways to Stay Productive in a Meeting or Phone Call

2014.10.02 by Prescott Perez-Fox

Two Fav_meetings

My Two Favourite Ways to Stay Productive in a Meeting or Phone Call

Meetings are the worst. Ten people crammed in a windowless room doing nothing. Or worse, looking at a Powerpoint presentation with oceans of 9-point text. But there are a few ways to keep yourself — an everyone else — in the groove. Here are two of my favourite techniques for effective meetings or phone calls.

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The Busy Creator is a project from Starship Design. ©2013–2014 Prescott Perez-Fox & Starship Design LLC