“10 Proven Hacks for Streamlining Your Digital Filing System in GTD Fashion”

How to Effectively Organize Your Electronic Documents with GTD-inspired Filing System

Are you struggling with keeping your numerous electronic documents in order? Do you find yourself spending more time searching for files rather than working on them? If so, then you’re not alone. With the increasing reliance on technology, the number of electronic documents we accumulate is also rapidly growing. And without proper organization, it can be overwhelming to manage them all. But fret not, Matthew Cornell, a productivity expert, has shared his insights on how to organize electronic files using the GTD (Getting Things Done) filing system.

GTD Filing System for Paper vs. Electronic Files

GTD was originally designed as a filing system for paper documents to help people manage their physical clutter. However, with the rise of digital technology, it has since been adapted to fit the needs of electronic files. In his blog post, Cornell shared that he has been testing this system for his email organization and has found it to work quite well.

The idea is simple – instead of creating folders based on the topic or project, you create a top-level directory for each letter of the alphabet, and within each directory, you create subfolders based on the project or context. For instance, if you have a project related to an NSF site visit in 2005, you can create a subfolder labelled “nsf-site-visit-2005” within the “N” directory. This system provides a logical structure for filing, making it easy to quickly locate the files you need.

Tagging vs. Filing: Which One Works Best?

While the GTD filing system is effective for organizing electronic files, one limitation is that it only allows you to file documents under one context or folder. This can create a problem when a file is related to multiple projects or contexts. So, what’s the solution?

One alternative is to use tags. Tagging allows you to add multiple keywords or labels to a document. For example, if you have a file relating to JavaScript and PHP tutorials, you can add tags for “javascript”, “php”, and “tutorial”. This makes it easy to retrieve the document using any of these keywords.

However, it’s worth noting that the effectiveness of tagging depends on how well you implement it. If you’re not consistent in tagging your files, it can create confusion and make it difficult to retrieve them. Additionally, if you have too many tags, it can become overwhelming and defeat the purpose of efficient organization.

How to Implement GTD-inspired Filing System & Tagging

Here are some tips on how to effectively implement the GTD-inspired filing system and tagging methods for electronic documents:

1. Define your top-level directories

Start by creating top-level directories for each letter of the alphabet. These directories will serve as broad categories for filing your documents.

2. Create subfolders based on projects or contexts

Within each top-level directory, create subfolders for each project or context. Make sure to name them as descriptively as possible for easy identification.

3. Use tags effectively

When tagging your documents, use relevant and consistent keywords. Avoid creating too many tags or using vague keywords that may not be useful when searching.

4. Regularly review and declutter

As with any organization system, regularly reviewing and decluttering your files is important. Delete any outdated or irrelevant documents, and make sure to keep your tagging and filing consistent.


Organizing electronic documents can seem like an overwhelming task, but with the right system in place, it can be made easy and efficient. The GTD-inspired filing system provides a logical structure for filing documents, while tagging allows you to retrieve files using multiple keywords. By using a combination of both methods, you can effectively manage your electronic documents and stay on top of your digital clutter.

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