Simple system for color-coding your files

I have a dead-simple color-coding system for my digital files. It’s based somewhat on Jamie Phelps’ system, “Dynamic Digital Organization” except I don’t bother using Smart Folders or even Jamie’s Eureka for Mac app, nice as it is. (Personally, I don’t find Finder replacements to be all that necessary, but you may differ.)

When I read Jamie’s post 4 years ago, I didn’t see much application for me. Now, however, I’m a full-time freelancer, so I have to play project manager and business developer as well as designer and web developer, so it helps to have some sort of system in place to track the status of my projects. When I worked for someone else, if it was on my desk, I had to work on it. If it wasn’t on my desk, I didn’t worry about it. Now, I have to think about all of it.

With physical files, it’s easy to physically place project folders into a stack reserved for projects that are currently in play, or a stack of projects you’re waiting to hear back on. Everything gets a project number, even things I only write a quote for.

Plus, there are several different kinds of “@waiting-on.”

Since I pretty much keep everything with me at all times as I live out of my messenger bag, I can’t easily sort the folders that way. So while every project has a digital and physical counterpart, I can manage everything’s status digitally.

Here’s how it breaks down:

  • Red: It’s finished, I’ve billed it, and I’m waiting for final payment.
  • Orange: The project is at the client and I’m waiting for feedback.
  • Yellow: I haven’t verified that I’ve got the project yet. It’s tentatively a project.
  • Green: This is an active project that I need to work on, today if possible.
  • Blue: A personal project involving one of my own brands or something more personal than that.
  • Purple: currently not used.
  • Gray: Projects that I made a quote for but didn’t get.

Once things are paid for, or it’s been confirmed that I didn’t win the project, the folders move from the Projects folder to the Archive folder, where they remain until I decide it’s time to clean house and back it up onto a DVD or external drive.

How do you manage your digital projects?


One Comment. Add your own below.

  1. Thanks for sharing this Brad; very useful indeed and great to discover this post via instagram too! I’ve enjoyed rediscovering your art site and this one in its new form and have added you to my feed :) Look forward to the new direction of your site.


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