January seems to always bring forth an eagerness to clean, purge and declutter our lives, but what is it about the new year that makes organizing such a widespread resolution? The easy answer: it rids us of mental burden, silences chaos, and invites breathing room, productivity, and clarity back into our lives. However, what many overlook in terms of organization, is the annual decluttering of one’s digital life.
A person’s digital world, no matter how they utilize technology and social media, is just as prone to mess and disarray as their home. Files, downloads, applications, emails, photos, plugins, and social media, can easily clog up our lines and not only overwhelm us, but also negatively impact our productivity in the process. Whether the use of computers, smartphones, or other devices is for business or personal purposes, completing a digital declutter can provide peace of mind and allow you to begin the new year with a clean slate.
Here is how you can get started on this year’s Digital Decluttering:
Declutter Your Inbox
You may have many inboxes that you manage for personal or professional reasons. Over time, emails can build up; Some may be ignored, some may be resolved, some may contain information you need to hold onto. Whatever the case may be, looking at an inbox with 5000 emails (open or not) can feel overwhelming. This is a great starting point for your digital transformation.
- Unsubscribe: Often we sign up for newsletters, promotions, and information that leads to a spamming of emails that do not require our ongoing attention. If this is the case for you, it is time to unsubscribe. The unsubscribe feature can typically be found at the bottom of an email from the company or organization sending it.
- Organize: A great way to create some space in your inbox is to organize a set of folders or labels (used in Gmail), and redirect emails as they come. You may want folders for different senders, action items, high or low priority items, receipts, work, education, hobbies, or travel.
- Delete or Archive: Once you have sorted through the emails you need to hold onto, you may want to consider deleting those that are no longer relevant. If your inbox is too full to manage this sorting task, another option is to accept defeat, declare inbox bankruptcy, and archive your emails.
Your desktop can be a great place to add efficiency to your life. However, it requires mindfulness and planning to make the best use of it for your business and allow you to be more productive.
- Delete: Any files that have made their way to your desktop that are no longer needed should be sent straight to your computer’s “trash bin”
- Organize: Files and documents that remain after your mass delete should be reorganized into their according folders.
- Toolbar: This is a great time to reassess the tools you want at your immediate disposal on your computer. Take a look at your toolbar and remove those you do not use, and add the ones you do.
- Shortcuts: For anything that you use frequently that can not be added to your toolbar, create a shortcut on your desktop, or mark it as a favourite on your browser for easy access.
Documents and Downloads
Over the course of our digital lives, it is likely that we have downloaded or uploaded hundreds of documents. While some of these files may be important, some simply have lost their relevance. Taking inventory of what’s on your computer can help free up space and ensure our machines remain quick and efficient for use.
- Document Purge: Cipher through your documents and downloads folder and simply purge anything that is no longer needed.
- Reorganize: For anything that remains, reorganize by moving them into the appropriate folder or category for easy access.
- Print and File: If any of your remaining files must be stored as hard copies as well, now is the time to print them and file them accordingly.
Just like our desktops, smartphones can accumulate files, apps, and information that loses its relevance over time. Cleaning up your smartphone will allow you to use it more efficiently, and help preserve the battery life and longevity of the device.
- Application Inventory: Check out every application on your phone and delete the ones that are no longer being used, no longer available, or are no longer compatible.
- Make Folders: If you like keeping things organized in folders, you can easily reorganize where your apps are placed by making folders on your home screen. Ideas for different folders include social media, photography, work, money management, scheduling, streaming, travel, or music.
- Photos: You may have thousands of photos and videos taking up space on your phone, and chances are, you don’t necessarily want or need them all. Delete duplicates, videos, or screenshots that are no longer needed, print photos that you have been meaning to, and save what you can to the cloud or an external storage system.
- Change Settings: You may find that many of your apps conduct a “background refresh” or use location services when it is not necessary, which can make your phone perform slower, and drain your battery much faster. Going forward, silence notifications from apps that are unnecessary or limit what each app is doing in the background through its permissions in your settings.
Social Media Declutter
There are many different social media apps that we use for personal reasons, professional reasons, or to help run our businesses. What we use tends to change over time though as new platforms are developed and dated ones become obsolete.
- Delete Accounts: If you have social media platforms that you are no longer active on, it is better to delete them than to allow them to remain inactive.
- Tune-up: The people and businesses that you friend and follow can build over time, and it is great when we have a large, captive audience. However, you may want to give your list a tuneup and unfriend or unfollow inactive accounts, or hide and mute the ones you would prefer don’t show up on your feed.
- Hire a Professional: Running your social media can feel like a full-time job on top of your full-time job. This year might be the time to hire a social media manager to take control and optimize your social media accounts to benefit your business.
Our digital lives allow us access to many different worlds of people, music, news, and capabilities. While this limitless world is exciting and engaging, this much “noise” makes us susceptible to feeling digitally overwhelmed. A declutter of your technology can help to silence the noise, increase productivity, improve creativity, and leave you feeling mentally clear at the end of the day.