Digital Resources for Mental Health Professionals: Data Organisation (Part 1)

This is part 1 of a series on data organisation. Which is part of a multi-series of posts on digital resources for mental health professionals.

😳 The way people organise their files can be very surprising.

In a place where I used to work, there was a colleague who was responsible for writing and handing out medical certificates to patients. These certificates are a one-page document containing basic information and the length of treatment.

She saved all the certificates issued since she started working in a single .doc Microsoft Word file. One certificate after another from different patients, separated by page breaks. It was clearly a system that worked for her in the beginning, as it was easy to search by patient name or date. She didn't have to worry about file names or folder structure.

Over the years, this file grew huge and Word struggled to open a document containing more than 10 (or maybe even 20) years of data. Imagine if that file got corrupted! I tried to convince her that it would make more sense to have a single file for each patient, but she didn't like my suggestion, but agreed that a single large file was too much for the computer's RAM. She agreed to create a different file for each year.

Folder Hierarchy

It pays to spend some time thinking about how you organise your files on your computer. It can help you find things quickly. Your computer's file system can be a very neat database or a disorganised data dump. Once you decide on rules for how your files are named, stored and relate to each other, this common tool becomes a very useful database.

Think about your downloads folder. A messy collection of random files. As it fills up, it can become difficult to find what you want. Imagine you have a special folder for ebooks, with subfolders for major subjects. A folder for Fiction, Cooking, Psychology, etc... and you have been careful to categorise the ebooks correctly. As you download more books and store them properly, your database will grow and your ability to find the ebooks you want will remain effortless.

⛔ You may quickly run into the limitations of this system, but that's OK.There are solutions. Take for instance a book called "The Psychology of Cooking." In this case, you could save two copies or categorize it as a psychology book rather than a cooking book, considering it lacks recipes. Alternatively, you could use the shortcut feature in Windows (symbolic links in Linux) to access it from both Cooking and Psychology folders.
🌈 Imagine how a fictional clinical psychologist might organise his or her work documents.
📂 My Documents/
├── 📂 Assessments/
│   ├── 📁 Standardized Tests/
│   └── 📁 Test Manuals/
├── 📂 Interventions/
│   ├── 📁 Therapy Manuals/
│   ├── 📁 Group Therapy Materials/
│   └── 📁 Handouts/
├── 📂 Research/
│   ├── 📁 Current Projects/
│   ├── 📁 Published Papers/
│   └── 📁 Research Proposals/
├── 📂 Collaboration/
│   ├── 📁 Shared Documents/
│   ├── 📁 Meeting Notes/
│   └── 📁 Referral Notes/
└── 📂 Professional Development/
    ├── 📁 Continuing Education/
    ├── 📁 Conference Presentations/
    └── 📁 Training Certificates/

This is certainly better than dumping everything into My Documents. This may not work for everyone, and you may want to organise the folder hierarchy differently. That's fine, but once you do it, you have to stick to the system and respect it for it to pay off later. You can change it later, but it shouldn't happen too often.

There are recommended systems for naming your folders, such as the Johnny Decimal system, and standardised ways of classifying certain things, such as the BISAC subject headings for books that can act as starting templates.

⏭️ Continue Reading...

Check out relevant links tagged with data-organisation in my bookmarks

This post is part of a challenge to write 150 blog posts of 150 words each this year. This is post 17 out of 150. I may have exceeded the 150 words limit this time 😉