Digital declutter. What a satisfying phrase. Think of it as feng shui for your digital space... This journal post is all about giving your digital life a thorough clean up so that you can make room mentally to be more productive and calm.
If you spend your working day in the digital world, it's likely that your digital devices are totally cluttered. That cluttered workspace needs cleaning up! But it's just not something that you think of in the same way as cleaning your home or cleaning your physical workspace. Although digital clutter doesn’t take up physical space, it takes up significant space in our heads.
Your mental wellbeing and productivity suffer from all of this digital clutter overload. A disturbed attention span, exhaustion, and overwhelm are super common if you're not keeping your online space tidy and organized. You don't realize it, but having a digital space that's overfull is contributing to the “always-on” mentality that you're feeling.
In his TedX talk, Computer scientist Dr. Cal Newport talked about quitting social media and how it causes digital clutter. He reveals that having all these accounts causes fragmented attention and leads to permanent damage in concentration. Our ability to focus lessens the more we distract ourselves or multitask.
The average American has about 118 bookmarked websites, 7 tabs or browsers open, 582 saved cellphone photos, and 13 unused apps. Digital Hoarders
I'm talking about the hundreds of unwanted emails in your inbox, all of the tabs you have open on your browser, and all of the files you have in your downloads folder. Guilty as charged?
If you're relating hard to this, it's time for some tips on how to digitally declutter your life and make more room for a clearer mental headspace! Here are my top tips...
Unsubscribe from Email Marketing
A first, and easy, step towards a decluttered digital life is to say goodbye to any email subscriptions that don't serve you any purpose. If you delete them immediately, leave them unread, or never even knew why you signed up for them in the first place, it's time to unsubscribe!
Set aside a chunk of time to go through all of your old emails and unsubscribe to anything that's not relevant. Be brutal with it, if you don't read it then it doesn't deserve space. You'll feel so much better almost immediately after, I promise!
Whether it’s the fear of judgment or the panic of procrastination, more than 60% of respondents said they experience some form of anxiety with unread emails in their inbox. Digital Hoarders
Delete Your Documents
Both on your hard drive and any online cloud storage you have. University presentations, old household bills, notes from a call years ago... whatever you're hanging onto on there, get rid of it if you no longer need it.
If the idea of digging through some or all of your files seems impossible, move everything that you need to go through to a separate folder called “To File,” and go through them gradually so it's less of an overwhelming task.
I bet that your downloads folder is packed with everything but the kitchen sink. Delete everything from your downloads folder and off your desktop! Saving files to your computer’s desktop is the same as keeping a pile of papers on your physical desk. Move files off the desktop to a folder, or delete them. If you haven't organized it into a file, it's got to go.
Once you have gone through everything that you've been hoarding and removed what you don't want, create a file system that you can use to stay on top of everything moving forward. Create folders for certain projects or files that you're likely to use often, you can even use a tagging system to categorize things more. Files are easiest to find if your organization system isn’t too complicated.
Clear & Organize Your Inbox
I am the biggest fan of an organized inbox. It's like the modern day way of having a filing system, right? Let's be honest, emails are the absolute bane of most people's existence. They are constantly appearing and stopping us from actually getting anything done. So, the best way to avoid this overwhelm is to have a system in place where you have 0 emails in your inbox at all times. It's not impossible, I promise.
The easiest and quickest way to organize your emails is to create labels and categories. Spend some time creating these based on what comes into your inbox most frequently. That way, as soon as one of these emails comes into your account, you can read it or respond as necessary, and then file it away into its relevant folder straight away. Or, if you don't need to keep it for future reference, delete it!
If you're not able to reply to emails straight away or need to look into something before reading them, create sections such as "Needs Actioning" or "To Read", and then file these away so they're not immediately on the forefront of your inbox screen. And that way, you can go back to them and action them when you have the allocated time for it.
If you want me to get you organized, you can check out my inbox management service here.
Uninstall any Programmes or Apps You Don't Use
This is a nice and easy, but super satisfying, one. Go through your computer and your phone and look at everything that you have installed there. Delete anything that you haven't used in the last 12 months, and aren't planning on using again anytime soon.
Not only will this give you more valuable storage space and clear your mental space, but it is also likely that it will improve the speed and battery life of that device.
Clean Up Your Web Browser
There are a few ways that you can clean up your web browser that will improve the speed, increase your online privacy and remove the clutter from your everyday use of it.
delete anything non-essential from your browsing history
disable or delete any unnecessary extensions and plugins
Once you have done all of this, take a bit of time to organize your bookmark system. Make sure that all of your bookmarked sites are ones that you access regularly and need to keep as bookmarks.
Learn how to limit your browse tab usage. Seeing multiple tabs open creates a sense of urgency and overwhelm, so try to limit yourself to a maximum of 10 tabs open at one time. Make use of your bookmarking system so that you can easily access sites as and when you need to, without keeping the tabs constantly open. As soon as you're done with a page, close it.
Reduce Screen Time
There’s an increasing amount of research that suggests that screen time isn’t good for us, and it can definitely drain our productivity. Spend your time online productively and efficiently in short bursts, rather than drawn out over a long period of time without actually achieving too much.
Cut down on social media use. Overall, it just gets in the way of doing anything remotely useful. So unless you are achieving something beneficial while on the platform, get off it. You can also use screen time monitoring apps to find out what you are doing and for how long on your phone which will help you to understand your usage and avoid any non-essential screen time.
Overall, the main steps to creating a clutter-free digital life are:
Do a digital audit of everything in your workspace (files, folders, tabs, downloads, history, accounts, etc.)
Delete anything you don’t need, and be really thorough with this
Reorganize what’s left, segment into a file system
Maintain a decluttered life with simple and consistent habits - keep on top of it!
If you want to talk decluttering, maximising productivity or any sort of organization tips, drop me a line - I'm always happy to hear from you! email@example.com