Wading searching through your own files is often an exercise in frustration with oneself for not having named files smarter / better / more thoroughly / in English.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again for those at the back of the room – Search is King.

Your fingers will type in a search term and hit enter before your eyeballs will scan and find the thing you’re looking for.

LEANING IN to relying on search is a skill you should build, just like the keyboard shortcuts that I teach you about at every opportunity!

This one tip is sooooo easy to implement and will legit enhance your search game if you implement, and it’s simply… use a consistent format for dates if you use them in your file names, so that your searches will always find your dated files.

And by that, I mean using the date format of YYYY-MM-DD.

Balk at that date format not being “Month, Day, Year” all you want, but “Year, Month, Day” is a smart choice for file names because it is a chronological, numerical and alphabetical format that is impossible to misread, misunderstand or even… mis-search.

So if you have a bunch of file names that include YYYY-MM-DD (in that format), then you can always search for the year and month in future, knowing for certain that it will yield the results you’re looking for.

Here’s an example… if I didn’t consistently include a date in my file names, then I could have files with dates like:

  • “Oct 08, 2013” and
  • “2013-10-08” and
  • “10-8-2013” and
  • “10-08-2013” and
  • “8-10-2013” (which is the month and which is the day?! ?! *insert angry face*) and
  • “October 8, 2013” and
  • “8 October 2013” and
  • “Oct 8, 2013″…

… and if I wanted to find all instances of files with that date… I’m SOL.

But if all my dates on file names were always YYYY-MM-DD, then I could reliably search for “2013-10-08” and confidently know that I wasn’t missing anything.

I’ve previously talked about including date-created in your Google Drive file names so that you can use that in the search terms, and this takes your file naming to another level.

Take this advice to heart and start using this format consistently for any dates that you might want to search for in future.

Yes, you’ll even thank me later. Much much later.


The inspiration for this post and this habit came from an office job I had about 9 years ago, where all the people who had held that office admin role before me had not been even remotely consistent in their file-naming for the reports that we ran each week.

Every folder contained a complete mishmash of “report name” preceded by or followed by a date in whatever format they felt like typing that day.

We had numbers, we had abbreviations, we had typos. Nothing fell into chronological order. How anyone didn’t care about this was beyond me!