Meanwhile, research has linked some activities to a drop in mental flexibility. Media Library

Install the Sheets and Docs apps on all your mobile devices. I never think I’m going to look at a spreadsheet on my phone — until the moment a client emails me an urgent question when I’m out on a walk. The mobile apps aren’t as powerful and easy to use as the desktop browser versions — they can be fiddly to use and lack some key features — but they’re useful in a pinch. Personal security is one aspect that every user can — and should — take responsibility for. Of course, the most secure way to use Drive is to never collaborate or use any outside apps. But abstaining from those functionalities means forgoing much of what makes Drive so powerfully useful.

Through years of hyper-organized experimentation with the suite of apps that includes Sheets and Docs, I’ve developed systems to streamline and simplify, well, pretty much everything in my life. Grocery shopping. Holiday gift-buying. Parenting. Financial planning. My freelance project ideas. Even my love life!

Many of the tools and strategies for securing your Google Drive are also general online best practices: Make sure you’re running the most up-to-date versions of all your software. Use screen locks on your devices. Consider using a password generator to create a random string of characters, and saving your password in a secure password manager.

A suite of cloud-based software applications, including Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Forms. Many of the applications we use most often on Google Drive look a lot like software applications for word processing or spreadsheet-making. But doing your work online through Google Drive means it’s accessible from any computer or phone (handy if you use more than one device), automatically backed up, and easy to share with other people. It also doesn’t require you to purchase a software license.

a. Keep your house in order
b. Keep family life running smoothly
c. Streamline chores and errands
d. Get your caregivers up to speed
e. Become effectively immortal (or at least manage your own death)

Google itself has published a lot of terrific how-tos that will walk you through every technical aspect of using Drive, so we won’t go through all that again. Here are a few to lay a solid foundation:

⚒️ The same goes for the templates and samples provided throughout, marked with a ⚒️. (These are view-only, but you can click “File” > “Make a copy” to create an editable version in your own Drive.)

Using Drive this way doesn’t have to be complicated, and you don’t need to be particularly tech-inclined to do it. To use a kitchen analogy, Google Drive isn’t baking, where one imprecise step can make your cake collapse; it’s cooking, where a little improv can lead to a delicious dinner. Consider the use cases covered in this guide to be your starting recipes, and modify accordingly.

This long and detailed guide — essentially, a short reference book — will walk you through dozens of ways that you can use Google Drive to bridge that gap. It’s full of specific ideas and templates, many of them borrowed from my life and the lives of other writers, that you can use to solve a very wide range of problems. Here you’ll find step-by-step advice on using all the tools of Drive to do everything from project planning to having a more rewarding social life.

Online storage and synchronization: Even if you never use Google Drive’s applications, it can still be a handy way to share or back up your files, or to keep them synchronized across different computers.

Let’s be clear, to start with: Uploading your personal information to the cloud of the second-biggest internet company in the world is not entirely without risk. But neither is online banking, using social media, or countless other activities you probably engage in — where hackers or the harvesting of data by big tech companies are always a concern. As with most things in life, using Google Drive involves calculating how much risk you’re comfortable with.

Name your files consistently. I always name my files in the format YEAR-MM-DD ProjectName DescriptiveDocName. So for example, this file started as 2020–08–05 GDriveForge IntroDraft. That way files sorted by name will be chronological, and it’s easy to search for the name of the project, or the date (even if it’s just a ballpark date) when I remember working on something.

The finding of Lopez’s study is in line with a larger body of evidence that has uncovered associations between some habit-forming and stress-inducing technologies — namely, email and social media — and reductions in cognitive flexibility and mental health. “Cognitive flexibility plays a huge role in preventing stress,” he says. “One of the main takeaways from my research is that you probably shouldn’t media multitask too often.”Practice good Drive hygiene. Keep personal projects in your personal account and work projects in your work account. Before creating a new Sheet, Doc, or anything else, check that you’re doing it in the right place.Before we cover all the many ways to integrate Google Drive into your life, let’s pause and go over some security best practices. If you use Drive as the command center for your life — and, as I’ve argued, you totally should — then do it knowing that you’ve taken the necessary steps to protect your information.

The good news is there are ways to maximize security while still using Drive’s collaborative features. It means asking yourself the right questions each step of the way: who you’re letting in, and why, and to what degree.

The table of contents below will give you an idea of what this guide covers. You don’t have to read it all the way through to get its benefits; it’s designed for skimming and dipping into the sections most useful to you. As a whole, it lays out how Google Drive can become the circulatory system for your entire life online, improving not only the way you work, but the way you do everything else, too.

Star (and un-star). Even if you mostly do a good job of naming and organizing your files and folders, it can be a hassle to go digging for the file you want at any given moment. So when you know you’re going to be using a specific file frequently for a time, add a star. Drive keeps the folder of starred items easily visible in your main navigation menu. When your project wraps and you’re not using that file much anymore, don’t forget to un-star it.

Set up a folder structure, and file religiously. Set up your folders in whatever way works best for your brain. I like to keep my Drive organized with a few huge categories (Writing, Household, Clients, Tech Experiments) and then within each category, I organize by project or subtopic. For example, my Writing file includes a folder for Forge, and my Forge folder includes a subfolder for Google Drive Guide, and that folder includes subfolders for Outlines and Drafts, and each section is its own document within Drafts.Keep shared files in a separate folder from private files. To keep track of which file is shared with whom, I keep clearly labeled subfolders in any project folder, with labels like Acme Project: Just me, Acme Project: Internal team, and Acme Project: Shared with client.Experts still have a lot to learn when it comes to the interaction between stress and habit. But what they’ve found so far suggests that the two may play off each other in ways that can be destabilizing.

Is your Google Drive doing all it can for you? Maybe you just use it to store files, or as free writing software. But it can do so much more. Used well, it can remove the friction that stands between your life and the best, most rewarding version of it.

Experts still have a lot to learn when it comes to the interaction between stress and habit. But what they’ve found so far suggests that the two may play off each other in ways that can be destabilizing.