The Best (and Worst) Ways to Organize Your Passwords

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“I keep a little notebook beside my computer to organize my passwords.”

“I just use the same password every time except I add a number or special character if I have to.”

“I’m more worried about my passwords being easy to remember than about them being safe.”

Sound like you?

If any of these hit home for you then you’re in the right place!

I’m going to teach you the best practices for creating, storing, and organizing your passwords. There are easy AND safe ways to organize your passwords.

I’ll start by showing you a common password mistake, and then I’ll tell you how to correct that mistake. Let’s get started!

THE TOP 5 PASSWORD MISTAKES

MISTAKE #1: STORING YOUR PASSWORDS IN MULTIPLE LOCATIONS

Problem: You’ve got a password app on your phone, a password manager with your web browser, a little notebook stashed somewhere in your desk, a couple of Post-it notes stuck to your computer monitor, and that password printable freebie that you filled in and then immediately forgot about.

How do you find the password you need? And how do you know which passwords are up-to-date?

Solution: Choose a single system for storing your passwords. You will always have the most current password right at your fingertips. No more wasting time digging for the password you need or having to click those annoying “Forgot your password?” links.

MISTAKE #2: WRITING YOUR PASSWORDS ON PAPER

Problem: There are several issues with this method of organizing your passwords.

First, anyone has access to them unless you’re keeping them in a safe. Thieves, nosy roommates, your significant other, your sneaky kids… they can all easily get their hands on them. 

Second, you know as well as I do how easy it is to lose paper. It gets lost on your desk, in a drawer, at the bottom of your bag, and finds it’s way into the trash. Paper is also a 100% loss in the event of a disaster like a fire or a flood.

Finally, using paper to organize your passwords is exhausting. You will constantly be adding them and crossing them out whenever you need to update. What if you don’t write them clearly? Is that the letter ‘O’ or the number ‘0’?

Solution: The easiest fix for this problem is to start using a password manager, either through your browser or a specific program like LastPass. Programs like these make it easy to generate, store, update, and enter your passwords quickly.

MISTAKE #3: USING THE SAME PASSWORD OVER AND OVER

Problem: This is the absolute worst security mistake you’re making with your passwords. By recycling the same password (even if you change it a little by adding a number or symbol) you’re just asking for trouble.

If someone gets ahold of that password, all of your accounts could be compromised. We’re talking email, financials, social media… It could become a nightmare in a hurry.

Solution: Use a password manager to generate secure passwords for you each time you need to create one. Or, randomly generate your own crazy string of lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers, and symbols if you don’t trust the password manager to do it for you.

Save the randomized password in your password manager and forget about it! You don’t have to remember it or write it down because it will be automatically filled for you the next time you sign in.

MISTAKE #4: NOT PASSWORD PROTECTING YOUR DEVICES

Problem: It’s annoying to have to type in a password on your phone, tablet, or computer every time you use them, right? The problem with that is if you store your passwords on those devices, anyone will have access to them! They can easily sign in to any of your accounts.

Solution: It doesn’t take much time at all to set up a password for each of your devices and sign in each time you use them. I put it off for years, but my brother finally convinced that it was a must and I’m so glad that he did. I never have to worry about someone using my devices without my knowledge.

MISTAKE #5: SHARING PASSWORDS INSECURELY

Problem: One of your team members needs a password to access an account so they can work on a specific task, so you just send it over in an email or through chat. Suddenly, you have a flood of security issues from unauthorized access to malware!

What happened? Email and chats aren’t as secure as we’d like to think they are. You should never share secure information through these channels because it could easily be compromised.

Solution: Password managers allow you to easily and securely share passwords with your team members, clients, and family. Some of them even allow you to share passwords secretly so that the other person can’t view it, but they still have the ability to autofill the password and sign in to an account.

So, are you starting to see a pattern? The solution to all of these mistakes is to use a password management tool that’s proven its worth. Let take a look at some of the options.

PASSWORD MANAGEMENT TOOLS

BROWSER PASSWORD MANAGERS

Most, if not all, web browsers come with password management built-in these days. They’ll store info like passwords, your address, and even your credit cards so that you can quickly fill in the endless stream of forms that come with being a modern-day internet user.

Pros:

  • Built into your browser so no extra software is required
  • Quick and easy to use
  • Store and fill complicated passwords

Cons:

  • Can’t be accessed across multiple browsers
  • May not be able to access on all devices
  • Limited features and capabilities

THIRD-PARTY PASSWORD MANAGERS

There are many third-party password managers available to you with the most popular ones being LastPass, Dashlane, and 1Password. I’ve used each of these, but my favorite is LastPass.

Pros:

  • Widely known and reliable
  • Accessible from any browser or device
  • Store a variety of information securely
  • Extensive features and customizations
  • Easily and securely share passwords
  • Security warnings
  • Import and export passwords

Cons:

  • Might need to pay a small fee for premium plans (I still use a free plan!)

THE SOLUTION TO PASSWORD ORGANIZATION

My top recommendation for organizing passwords is to use LastPass. It’s extremely popular, especially with online businesses, so your prospective clients are likely to already have an account. It’s also user friendly, even for the technology challenged.

In this screenshot of my LastPass Dashboard, you can see how nice and clean their software is. Everything is as simplified as possible, which I of course adore.

In the light gray area, I have all of my passwords sorted into folders by clients, personal, or my own business. This makes it easy to find exactly what I’m looking for when I need it.

You can also search for a password in the red toolbar at the top of the dashboard, so it’s important to label them clearly whenever you add a new one. Use keywords like your client’s name and the program to make them searchable.

TAKE ACTION

  1. Hop over to LastPass.com to get started
  2. Sign up for FREE! No credit card required
  1. Create a Master Password
    1. Make it something unique that you can remember
    2. Write down a hint for this password and store it somewhere that you won’t lose it
  2. Install the browser extension for all browsers you use
  3. Install the app on your mobile devices
  4. Log in to your account
  5. Set up your account preferences
  6. Create folders to organize your passwords
  7. Start saving your passwords securely!

Once your LastPass account is set up, you’ll need to transfer all of your passwords from those random locations into your new, organized folders. You should also take the time to generate new passwords for any accounts where you’ve recycled passwords. I know that might take you a little time, but I promise it’ll be a lot less time than you’ll spend trying to undo all the damage if those accounts are hacked.

Get in the habit of using your new system so that you never make the same password mistakes again. You’ll feel like a boss when you finally take control of the password chaos and turn it into password bliss.

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Hey, I'm Becky!

Engineer turned CEO.
My mission is to reduce the overwhelm that comes with starting and growing your own business by getting you organized.

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