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PD Pathways is a monthly digital newsletter for CPAs and business professionals, showcasing the latest news and resources in CPABC Professional Development.
How to Organize Files and Folders for Maximum Productivity
By Brooks Duncan, CPA, CMA
The following is an excerpt, the full article can be found at AsianEfficiency.com
One of the simplest and most overlooked aspects of being organized is getting your computer files organized. You should be able to find a file in five seconds, not five minutes. Organizing does not have to be hard. Let’s look at some best practices for how to organize files and create a filing system for maximum efficiency and productivity.
The idea of a filing system goes back to the good-old-days of a filing cabinet and paper files and folders.
The advantage of the original paper-based filing system was that you really had to think about where to put files so that you could locate them easily when they were needed. When your files are digital, you can’t see or touch them. There are three overarching goals for your file organization system:
- Easy to File - You don’t want your filing system to be a huge, hierarchical maze. You want it to be fast and easy to save files so your system does not cause friction.
- Easy to Find - You want your system to make it easy to find the file or folder you need, either by poking through folders or using search.
- Reusable - Where possible, you want to use re-usable templates and naming conventions, both of which support the previous two goals.
Here are simple rules for managing your files and folders.
Don’t put files on the desktop
Your desktop is supposed to be clean and display that gorgeous high-resolution wallpaper you have got going on. It should contain your trash/recycle bin, and that’s about it. On occasion, it can be handy to put a file or two on your desktop for temporary storage if you’re referring to it regularly and don’t need to file it just yet.
Limit folder creation
When you are creating folders, think minimal. Most files can fit somewhere in your hierarchy if you have done a good job of initially mapping it out. In general, only create new folders if you find yourself repeatedly coming back to save similar files in the same place, only to find that it doesn’t exist yet. You will know when it is time to create another level in the hierarchy rather than creating a vast extensive multi-layered tree before you need it. You want your file structure to be as simple as you can get away with.
Name your files and folders strategically
One of our goals for organizing our files is “Easy to Find.” A key way to accomplish this is by putting some thought into how you name your folders and files. Think about saving a phone bill. Do you think phone bill.pdf is a good name? Probably not. July phone bill.pdf is not any better.
So when you are naming that phone bill, think about how you might look for it. Probably:
- By date (I want the January 2023 phone bill)
- By company (I want the XYZCorp phone bill)
- By type of document (I want a phone bill)
So a good name would allow you to look at the files in a folder and right away see what each file is without opening it. It would give you things you can use to search. So a good file name, in this case, could be 2023-01 XYZCorp Bill.pdf
The same concept applies to folders. It is not helpful to have a bunch of folders called Invoices inside other folders. It would be better to call the folder ABCCorp Invoices (even if it is inside a master ABCCorp folder) so that you can use that name to search on later. It makes it much faster and easier to get to with the keyboard.
The general rule to follow is to pick a folder structure that matches how you mentally organize things. If you use a task management system, it is probably not a bad idea to mimic the structure that you use. If you are a small team or organization, it can be helpful to work together to create the file structure. You will be more likely to have buy-in if the people on the team were a part of the decision-making process.
We hope you have picked up some ideas from this article that will help you better organize your digital files. As long as you follow the rules in the beginning and set up an effective hierarchy, file and directory, organization is a breeze.
Brooks Duncan, CPA, CMA is host of The Productivity Show, a top productivity podcast and is COO of Asian Efficiency, a leading productivity training company.
He has spoken at the American Bar Association TECHSHOW, CPA British Columbia, National Association of Productivity & Organizing, Institute of Professional Bookkeepers of Canada, Real Estate Board Greater Vancouver, and more. Brooks' background includes accounting, software, online community, and as Director of Client Services at a large multinational firm.
Learn more in person from Brooks Duncan as he delivers his breakout session on Automate for Success: Achieve Effortless Efficiency in Work and Life at our upcoming PD Nexus - Business & Leadership Insights on July 11 at the Hyatt Regency in Vancouver.
Upcoming New seminars
Here are some new titles to watch out for this Spring/Summer! Check out all our offerings in the May and June calendar for over 115 courses.
Understanding the Select Luxury Items Tax Act and the Underused Housing Tax Act
Join us for a two-part presentation and discussion about the two new Acts, and what you need to know. This seminar is the first session in both our new Income Tax Series and Indirect Tax Series. You can register for this single seminar, or check out the full series for other titles included.
Live Webinar (Apr 6)
Read more on Understanding the Select Luxury Items Tax Act and the Underused Housing Tax Act and our new Income Tax Series or Indirect Tax Series
Artificial Intelligence for Accounting and Finance Professionals
Learn about the fundamentals of AI and specific types of problems AI can help you address. Discover AI features available in everyday applications – including Excel – and how you can use these features in situations such as detecting fraud and identifying potential errors in transactions.
Live Webinar (Jun 12)
Read more on Artificial Intelligence for Accounting and Finance Professionals
Digital Transformation Toolbox - Preparing for the future of Accounting
New technologies open up huge opportunities for Finance teams but getting full value from your investments requires a new set of skills. Participate in this discussion on how technology is transforming accounting and how to future proof your finance career.
Live Webinar (May 25)
Read more on Digital Transformation Toolbox
Upcoming Ethics seminars
If you are looking to fulfil your four ethics hours for the year, here are some upcoming titles available for you.
Business Ethics: It Starts With You
Through case work and open dialogue, this session will explore the intersection amongst prominent theoretical approaches to ethics, personal values, business values and how they shape business decisions.
Live Webinar (May 24)
Read more on Business Ethics: It Starts With You
Ethical dilemmas are often not straightforward. In order to resolve dilemmas, it is necessary to both understand the issues at hand, and have a rigorous analytical and critical thinking framework with which to examine these from an ethical perspective. This half-day course aims to equip you with the skills to do both.
Live Webinar (Jun 6) or In-Person, Vancouver (Jun 27)
Read more on Ethical Dilemmas
Personal and Corporate Reputation in the Era of “Shares” and “Likes”
In 2012, “shares” and “likes” began to be widely used on social media – a change which created a new era of reputation risk for both individuals and organizations. Explore behavioural ethics research and real-life case studies that show how we don’t always behave as ethically as we think we will.
Live Webinar (Jun 6)
Read more on Personal and Corporate Reputation in the Era of “Shares” and “Likes”
Professional Ethics for Career & Life Success - Good for Business and the Right Thing to Do
This hands-on, participatory workshop will guide you through several classic ethical frameworks and supply you with practical tools and techniques you can use to maintain high standards of ethics in your work and on your team.
Live Webinar (May 30)
Read more on Professional Ethics for Career & Life Success - Good for Business and the Right Thing to Do
Upcoming In-person seminars
Here are some in-person seminars scheduled for May and June. You can view the complete list here.
Balancing Your Wheels
Over 48% of Canadians have reported that their stress has increased significantly in the last few years. Learning to navigate through this uneven terrain requires new tools. Explore some tools to help you assess and determine how balanced you currently are, and what you can do to manage your resiliency and energy.
Vancouver (Jun 12)
Read more on Balancing Your Wheels
Employment Law and HR Practices
The employment relationship is founded on principles of contract law and is considered by the courts to be a special kind of contract. Gain a practical perspective concerning the relationship between the legal landscape for (mostly non-union) employment in Canada, and day-to-day human resources activities that impact their organization.
Vancouver (Jun 13)
Read more on Employment Law and HR Practices
Life-Interest Trusts as Will Substitutes: The Use and Taxation of Alter Ego Trusts and Joint Spousal or Common-Law Partner Trusts
This half-day seminar focuses on why and how joint spousal or common-law partner trusts and alter ego trust are commonly used as will substitutes in British Columbia.
Vancouver (Jun 21)
Read more on Life-Interest Trusts as Will Substitutes
Lifelong Learning – Replenish your CPA Toolkit with New Opportunities
Here are some opportunities for a skills and knowledge refresh that we think our members can benefit from. All course titles mentioned below are available in our spring/summer program, and in the past year received average course ratings of 4.75 or higher out of a possible 5!
Inspiring your team
In your journey to becoming an effective and respected leader, don’t underestimate the power of mentoring skills – the ability to turn compliance into commitment, and potential into growth. Your inspired leadership can make a great impact on the success of your business unit, creating a positive environment where teams work together to produce desired results. Discover the tools you need to achieve inspirational leadership through mentoring, and join Dr. Shawn Ireland during his presentation of Leadership and Coaching this June. Or if your focus is on how to drive a higher degree of engagement, empowerment, and providing meaningful feedback, attend Effective and Essential Management Skills delivered by Greg Campeau in August.
Upping your digital marketing game
While few roles require direct or hands-on expertise in social marketing, all effective business professionals these days should possess a grasp on how various digital marketing platforms may, or may not, be able to help expand your customer base, attract better talent to the organization, or amplify the organization’s presence. This is knowledge that will help you stay relevant in 2023 and beyond. Find and use digital marketing tools that are relevant to your work and company, and build a simple digital marketing plan with Corinne Impey at Digital Marketing Essentials for Accountants.
Creating quality visuals to communicate your numbers
As a CPA, you are adept at building large spreadsheets and presenting financial information on slides and reports. But are they designed clearly enough so that your numbers and their underlying messages are clearly communicated to your audience? Quite often, decision-makers do not take any action when they are unsure of the message, so don’t let your hard work result in an undesired outcome simply because of a confusing visual. Learn how to select the appropriate visual for your purpose, and create clear, effective graphs and diagrams in Excel or PowerPoint. Be sure to hear directly from instructor Dave Paradi as he presents Hands-on Techniques to Create Effective Financial Visuals in Excel and PowerPoint.
Finding your focus amidst a sea of distractions
There’s no way around it, we live in a world full of distractions where competing priorities seem to grow and shift each year as we continually face new realities. As a business professional, it is imperative that you maintain a clear mind to be productive, creative, and accurate, while ensuring that your mental wellbeing is not compromised. Explore the neuroscience related to focus and the practical tools to hone it with Scott Orth this July at The Focused CPA - Finding and Maintaining Focus in the Age of Distraction.
Guiding your way – or your clients’ way – to retirement
You may be approaching retirement, or simply want more guidance on retirement planning in order to advise clients, family or even yourself. Now more than ever, it’s obvious that creating a worry-free cash flow to pay for our lifestyles in retirement is highly daunting. In the fast-paced webinar Designing Retirement Income, Kurt Rosentreter will address retirement cash flow considerations on retirement age, CPP, RRIF, income splitting, tax planning, estate factors, insurance, and real estate.
Upgrading your data analysis skills with Excel
You may be a regular Excel user, but did you know that the new features introduced with Excel 365 contain some of the biggest changes to Excel’s core functionality in decades? Are you still using Excel in the most efficient and accurate way for data analysis? Learn about these changes, functions, and integrating old tools with new functionalities at Excel 365: Advanced Data Analysis presented by the Marquee Group in late June. You may also benefit from attending these additional Excel seminars coming up between May to August.
Leveling up your understanding of financial statement and ratio analysis
Most financial professionals have been exposed to ratio analysis but few are familiar with how ratios are used by external users of financial statements. If you are a financial professional who would like to take your understanding of ratio analysis to the next level, or are in the early to middle stages of your accounting career, you may want to explore some of the reports that popular systems, such as Bloomberg reports, generate for external users of financial statements. Join Karine Benzacar at Taking Financial Statement and Ratio Analysis to the Next Level where she looks at analyzing financial statements using a few different methods.
Assessing ethical decisions and their link to professional and personal success
While it may be obvious why working ethically is simply “the right thing” to do, its broader positive and negative implications to your company, industry, and even country may be a little less perceptible. Listen directly to Joel Shapiro at Professional Ethics for Career and Life Success – Good for Business and the Right Thing to Do as he discusses using the framework for auditing decisions for ethicality, as well as the relationship between ethics, the CPA Code, and the law.
Brushing up on your tax and accounting standards knowledge
You can also get more up-to-date on taxation topics such as Corporate Restructuring – Fundamentals and Personal Tax – Review of Tax Planning, or on financial reporting topics such as IFRS – Review of the Standards. Browse all live taxation seminars or accounting and assurance seminars scheduled this spring and summer.
A Public Policy Expert with a Doctor of Philosophy in Economics from Oxford University
Meet David Williams, DPhil, MPhil, BEcon (Hons), Vice President of Policy at the Business Council of British Columbia (BCBC). He provides senior leadership in developing public policy research, advice, and solutions in the areas of productivity, innovation, technology, taxation and human capital.
David joined BCBC in 2018 following six years as a Senior Economist at the Bank of Canada. Prior to immigrating to Canada, David spent nine years in increasingly senior roles in the Australian public service. He was the Senior Adviser for Economic Policy at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet before taking leave to pursue postgraduate studies.
David holds a Doctor of Philosophy and Master of Philosophy in economics from Oxford University. While at Oxford University, he was a lecturer in economics and a PhD research intern at the International Monetary Fund in Washington D.C.
He is President of the Association of Professional Economists of B.C., an organization representing around one hundred of B.C.’s top economists, and a member of the adjudication committee for the Canadian Economic Association’s Mike McCracken Award for Economic Statistics.
Learn from David and gain insight into the features and comparative strengths of the Canadian and B.C. economies in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic at our morning plenary session on Economic Outlook at our upcoming PD Nexus: Business and Leadership Insights on July 11 in Vancouver.
Free On-Demand Seminars
These titles are eligible for verifiable CPD hours – in order to claim these hours as verifiable, you will be required to successfully complete a short quiz.
Kick-Off to Personal Tax Season!
From current trends to practical tips, this 1-hour webinar will help to ensure you avoid the traps and maximize opportunities this year.
Economic Update: Where is BC's Economy Headed
With economic uncertainty high, it is important to understand how BC’s economy is faring, and where it is headed. Topics covered include an analysis of BC’s GDP and outlook, the labour market, interest rates and investment, and the housing market.
Your Spring/Summer PD Program is now open for registrations. Highlights include:PD Nexus: Business and Leadership Insights
PD Nexus: Information Technology Insights 2023
Virtual Presentation Design & Delivery Certificate Program
CPA Firm Manager Leadership Skills Certificate Program
Did You Know?
PD has two new Tax Series starting April 6!
The world of tax is constantly changing. Sign up for these monthly series to stay up-to-date on highlights of what you need to know as proposed tax rule changes are enacted.
You can register for individual sessions but if you register for the whole-series you will receive all five sessions at the special series rate, which equals to one free session. As an added benefit, series purchasers will have access to the recorded sessions, for a limited time, in the event that any of the live sessions are missed.