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GTD Mastery 100: Step 22

To read my complete journey to GTD Mastery see the main post.

Step 22 to GTD Mastery is: My computer files are set up for maximum productivity.

Above is a screenshot of all my files. Even with nearly 50,000 files spanning multiple computers, managing my digital data is painless.

The first step is to establish a folder hierarchy. If you have multiple computers, I recommend using the same structure on each to allow for easy synchronization. The exact structure will vary for each user and there is no one solution. The only criteria I have is that I’m able to quickly locate required files. Below is a mindmap of my “My Documents” directory.


Vista has Instant Search, Mac has Spotlight, Linux has Beagle. I’m using XP and use Google Desktop for my desktop search. While it isn’t perfect, it is much more efficient than manually point-and-clicking.


Nothing is a bigger productivity killer than losing your data (not to mention grade killer when that term paper is due the next day). There are different levels of backup that you can take to protect your data.

Level 1: Create a separate partition for your documents
For Linux and Mac, this means you should have a separate partition for your “home” directory. For Windows, this means your “My Documents” should not be on your C: drive. Instead, you should have a separate partition (e.g. X: drive) where you place your documents.

If you already have a spare partition, you can move your documents by right clicking on “My Documents” and selecting properties.

If the C: drive got corrupted, you can simply reinstall Windows and point your “My Documents” back to that other partition. If you don’t have a separate partition, you can resize your C: drive to create a new partition. If you’re doing a re-install you can create your partitions during the installation. An introduction to “partitions” can be found here. A search for “your OS and hard drive partition” should provide guides for your specific OS.

Level 2: Backup to a separate hard drive
The next level is to backup your files to either an external hard drive or a dedicated server. I use SyncToy to synchronize and backup all my files. My laptop is backed up to my server at home. My server is then backed up to external hard drives.

Level 3: Off-site backup
The final level is to backup your files either to a computer outside your neighbourhood or through an online solution. This is the only way of protecting your data from a natural disaster (e.g. fire/flood). If you have friends/family who are willing to run a backup server and who you trust to respect the privacy of your files, re-imbursing them for the electricity costs will generally be cheaper than an online solution. This depends on the size of your data. There are many free online backup solutions that offer a few gigabytes of storage. However, if you’re data needs are larger, check out our partner, Carbonite, who provides unlimited, automated online backups for only $50/year. Computers are disposable, your data isn’t.

How do you organize, search, and backup your files?

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Related posts:

  1. GTD Mastery 100: Step 13
  2. GTD Mastery 100: Step 12
  3. Backup4all 3 Review
  4. Are you backing up your data regularly enough?
  5. GTD Mastery 100: Step 1

4 Responses to “GTD Mastery 100: Step 22”

  1. Nathaniel says:

    I don’t really Launchy much to launch online searches, but you might like it. I use it all the time to launch apps. You can also launch folders with the Explory plugin.

  2. Chris Y. says:

    Actually, that screenshot is of Google Desktop which I use for strictly for finding files. Launchy, like you said, is for applications.

  3. seo blog says:

    I am happy with my vista search even though it can be somewhat slow.

  4. Carbonite says:

    Carbonite is one of my favorite online backup. Have been using them since january 2009 and their system have been great. Of course don’t forget to spread your backup files in other methods like external hard disk, dvd’s and/or portable disk.