Setting up your “My Documents” folder in a logical way takes some time and some thought (as you have seen if you have done it), but it is a tremendous timesaver from there on. The average professional spends a total of six weeks a year looking for things! You don’t want to be part of that statistic, and having a filing system that makes sense is vital.

Vilfredo Pareto was an Italian economist around the turn of the 20th century. Pareto observed that 80% of the wealth of Italy was held by 20% of the population, and that the remaining 80% of the population accounted for only 20% of the wealth. That observation has become known as “Pareto’s Principle,” or the “80/20 Rule.” It has been applied in many circles. A salesman may find that 80% of his sales are made to 20% of his customers. In your school, you may find 80% of the discipline problems coming from 20% of the students.

The application of the Pareto Principle on your computer is that you will surely have a very few files that you use a great portion of the time. For example, I have our school letterhead on my hard drive. Every time I compose a letter or memo, I use that letterhead. I also have a fax cover with our school information and my name already completed. I use that every time I have to send a fax. I have a spreadsheet where I keep up with expenses and balances in various pots of money. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t consult or update that spreadsheet. I have another spreadsheet that houses various assessment data for all students. I use that data continuously.

All of the documents I mentioned composed “the vital few”—those few documents which are in constant use. I want to have them at my fingertips. For that reason, I have a file right on the desktop in a file called “Fingertip.” With one double-click, I am looking at the contents of that file. Since I use those few files constantly, having them at my fingertips saves considerable time.

Finally, when I am working on a project, I will let that project stay on the desktop until it has been completed. Seeing that file on the desktop serves as a reminder of work still to be done. When the project has been completed, the document must find a home at the appropriate place in the My Documents folder.

All of this means that everything I have created is in one of three places: the vast majority of files are in My Documents, the most commonly used files are in the Finger file and the current projects are on the desktop.