Decluttering your Digital Spaces!
This week’s blog is an extract from my book, Easy Life.
It is all too easy to forget about decluttering the digital spaces in your life. After all, they don’t take up much physical space, but they do take up room in your head! A decluttered digital space will help you to work more efficiently.
Decluttering digital spaces follows the same principles as decluttering physical spaces. Declutter first, start with the easy wins, work in categories, check everything, choose positively what to keep, store like with like and keep surfaces clear (in this case, that means the desktop!)
Start by going through whatever folder structure you have been using, bringing similar files together and check to see whether you are making a positive choice to keep them. Discard the unnecessary and then store like with like. If your computer is a bit messy, it may take time to go through all of your documents, but believe me when I say that this is a good use of your time. It will free up space on your computer AND in your head.
When it comes to organising your files, I like to keep a clear desktop and to use a system that I would describe as a waterfall. Pretty big, broad categories, trickling down to a specific document. I prefer not to have too many choices in any one of the levels as it makes it easier to see what I am doing.
It is not unusual to be overrun by emails and the first step here is to have a good clear out of your Inbox.
Use the search function on your email to check by categories. For example, if you search for “Amazon” everything relating to that should pop up and you can decide what to do with it.
With emails, I discard almost everything. If I decide it is important, like a receipt that I can’t find elsewhere, or a correspondence that I want to keep, I file it in one of my folders, but be aware that this can be a slippery slope too – don’t blindly file, ensure that you really are only keeping what you need. For example, do I really need the receipt for a set of pencils that I bought? Or the books? Once they have arrived, I’m not going to send them back, so I might as well delete the receipt. I generally only hang on to digital receipts if I would hang on the physical version. Remember that all your Amazon orders, for example, are available online on your Amazon account, and this is often true with other online accounts.
Those Special Offer emails? For stuff that you don’t need and really shouldn’t be buying? Bin them – use the search function to find them all, highlight and then trash. Then, and this is the really important part, unsubscribe from those emails. I have just two or three emails now that come in with offers that I might consider, the rest have gone. The same with random newsletters – if I’m uninterested, they go. Unsubscribing is a huge part of email management.
If you really need to keep something, then you can file it within a SMALL number of folders. I listened to a talk once that suggested that rather than try to delete emails, you could literally just dump them in folders by year and this does have the advantage that it is quick! The thinking behind it was that you could use the search function of your email to find anything that you needed and that it kept your inbox manageable to just those things that you needed to do something about. This might be a solution that works for you – if it does, then great. Anything over 7 years old, delete.
Create a To Do list in your Calendar, not your Inbox. Using your Calendar for reminders rather than relying on your email will help keep your attention focussed on what matters to you and prevent distraction. I’ve expanded on this in the Time Management section. Turn your desktop notifications off – don’t be at the beck and call of everyone else! Remember that your Inbox is really just a competing list of everyone else’s priorities, not yours. Set time aside to check your emails and don’t do it apart from at those times. It will make you more efficient (I promise).
With the advent of smartphones, it’s easier than ever to be distracted on the go. You pick up your phone to check the weather forecast and emerge an hour later having been distracted by social media and still not sure what the weather is going to do later. As always here, start by decluttering apps that you don’t need, particularly those that are hugely distracting, but don’t actually add much to your life.
To organise your phone, aim to keep your space as clear as possible. Keeping the Home Screen clear can minimise distraction. If there is an app that you would like to use less frequently, “hide” it in a folder and bring those that you would like to use more towards the front.
This has a natural run-on to social media. Consider which platforms add to your life and which platforms you leave feeling sad. Ruthlessly curate your Newsfeeds!
As an aside, I no longer watch the News programmes. This does not mean that I do not keep up to date with what is going on in the world, but I prefer to read it on sources that I trust than incessantly consume it on social media and TV.