A digital clean-up or trash day
What is a trash day?
A digital clean-up or 'trash day' is a day when you and/or all your organisation's employees work on ensuring your digital files are properly organised and accessible.
Among other things, a digital clean-up day can include the following:
- consolidating files from different carriers in one centralised location;
- moving files to the agreed location in your digital filing system;
- cleaning up the digital archive;
- deleting files with expired legal retention periods;
- renaming files and folders to ensure they comply with agreements;
- converting files into sustainable file formats.
Why organise a trash day?
- To create order and room on your server, hard drives and/or in the cloud, so you and others can find documents more easily;
- Deleting unnecessary files means you can focus more on organising the ones you actually need;
- Documents and files that belong together are organised accordingly;
- Grouping files together in a centralised location provides a good overview, which simplifies storage and back-ups;
- Files in a centralised folder structure are easier for all employees to find. Your colleagues cannot find documents that have been saved in a personal folder;
- You become more aware of all the files you create;
- A collective trash day can help with discussions about what needs to be saved and deleted, and how to organise it in a practical sense.
When to organise a trash day?
Organise regular trash days (one or two per year). The more frequent they are, the less time it ultimately takes to clean everything up. Don't wait until cleaning up is urgent, and don't buy extra storage capacity as an alternative to cleaning up; you'd only be postponing it.
Appoint a manager to regularly monitor the folder structure and determine when trash days are needed, and check that the folder structure and agreements in place are still adequate.
Depending on the objectives you set, some measures should already be in place.
Some examples: Digital files can easily become disorganised when they are saved in different places, e.g. external hard drive, inbox, USB stick, CD or DVD, or virtual locations such as Dropbox and Google Docs, etc.
You can reorganise all this on a trash day to ensure all your files are stored together in a centralised folder structure. If this is your objective for the trash day, you need to have:
- a centralised location where digital files can be saved together;
- identified and mapped out all your carriers with documentation;
- a (shared) folder structure in line with your organisation's operations.
If you want to rename your files and folders, you need:
- agreements in place about how to name your files and folders.
If you want to delete unnecessary files, you need:
- an overview of legal retention periods;
- agreements about what to save or not.
How to organise a trash day?
Good preparation ensures a successful trash day. A few tips for good organisation:
Appoint a manager to guide everything along the right tracks and keep a good overview.
Agree a day when all employees can be available, and day-to-day tasks can be put to one side as much as possible, so that everyone can focus on cleaning up.
Draw up an action plan to set out your objectives for the trash day. Make sure the objectives are clear and provide concrete guidelines for what will happen on trash day. Use the specific needs within your organisation to determine your objectives, e.g. overflowing mailboxes, errors in digital filing, documents spread across different carriers, etc. See the top of this page for an overview of possible objectives. Share the action plan with all colleagues in advance of the trash day.
Identify, together with your colleagues, all the locations where digital files are saved and therefore require your attention. This could include external media (USB sticks, CDs, DVDs, external hard drives, home computers…), your personal disk space (computer desktop and hard drive), and virtual locations (email program, Google Docs, Dropbox…). Make a list of all the folders in the filing system and all digital carriers, and ask your colleagues to indicate which folders they are responsible for. You can use this simple (Windows) tool to copy your folder structure and export it to an Excel spreadsheet. All employees can then enter their names in this file next to the folders they are responsible for.
Make a back-up (security copy) of the digital archive so that nothing gets lost when files are moved, deleted or renamed. Schedule this back-up for the day before trash day.
Implementing the trash day
Start every trash day with a briefing so all colleagues know exactly what they need to do. Use the action plan as your guide. All employees should start with the files and folders they are responsible for. Then they can tackle folders that don't have anyone responsible for them, or help colleagues who have lots.
A clear action plan should ensure that everyone knows what they need to do. Make sure you have a point of contact to answer questions throughout the day or, if no answer is available, to make a note of so they can be resolved later.
The trash day is followed up with an evaluation to document all the actions and tasks undertaken:
Hold a meeting with all employees to evaluate how everyone experienced the trash day and identify any potential issues;
Draw up a new action plan if there are any tasks that have not been carried out;
Check the folder structure and look at the results;
Save the back-up created before the clean-up day so any deleted files can be replaced if necessary;
Document all the actions undertaken together with their outcomes, so you have a clear overview of all tasks, difficulties, solutions and deleted files from the trash day.
Authors: Nastasia Vanderperren (meemoo) and Eline De Lepeleire (Letterenhuis)