Johnny Decimal Method For File Organization

An evaluation of the Johnny Decimal method for oranizing digital files.

created: 2021-02-08 | topic: computer | tag: organize | author: Jason Lenz

If you’ve experienced one or more of the following types of challenges organizing your digital files, you might benefit from the Johnny Decimal methodology.

Below is the link to the site where John Noble (aka Johnny) describes the methodology. I’d encourage you to take a look at the site as he does a good job describing the rationale for the method and benefits there.

In very simple terms the method involves creating 10 large categories that encompass all your digital files, and then further breaking each of those into 10 sub categories each. In addition these folders are numbered in a sort of shorthand that allows one to quickly determine what type of content files exist in a folder.

On the surface this seems ridiculously simple and obvious, but there are further rules and guidelines on this that make it work. I’m currently evaluating the method and I can say that although it’s not perfect it’s been a net positive and helped me address the challenges mentioned above in my own systems to a large degree.

Below is an example of the folder structure I came up for my files. I’ve included all the top level folders and expanded some of the sub folders for illustrative purposes:

├── 00-inbox
│   ├── 01-desktop
│   └── 02-downloads
├── 10-media
│   ├── 10-inbox
│   ├── 11-personal
│   │   ├── 11.00-inbox
│   │   ├── 11.01-gallery
│   │   └── 11.02-bydate
│   ├── 12-movie
│   │   ├── 12.01-entertainment
│   │   ├── 12.02-tv-series
│   │   └── 12.03-documentary
│   ├── 13-graphics
│   ├── 14-book
│   │   ├── 14.00-inbox
│   │   ├── 14.01-ebook
│   │   └── 14.02-audiobook
│   ├── 15-music
│   └── 19-other
├── 20-code
│   ├── 21-personal
│   ├── 22-public
│   ├── 23-proto
│   ├── 24-package
│   ├── 25-contrib
│   └── 29-ref
├── 30-project
├── 40-vm
├── 50-document
├── 70-personal
├── 80-config
├── 90-archive
│   ├── 91-backup
│   ├── 93-src
│   ├── 94-binary
│   ├── 95-proprietary
│   └── 96-web

Initially I was skeptical about the value of the numbering system embedded in the folder names but have come to appreciate it more over time. Below are some of the more subtle benefits I’ve experienced:

It’s probably not the silver bullet for everyone, but then again it just might be the solution you’ve been looking for to wrangle your data into order and control the chaos. Give it a try!