Digital clutter may not be visible, but it is just as detrimental to productivity as physical clutter is, if not more.
Technology is an amazing thing, as is unlimited space to save our precious documents and photos. However, without the requirement of occasionally clearing things out, our digital worlds can quickly start to look like an episode of hoarders!
Here are 5 of the most common places digital clutter builds up and crashes in on our productivity.
Do you enjoy checking your email? Odds are, you probably aren’t. Whether it’s because you have dozens of promotional ads yelling at you every time you log in or because you have thousands of unread emails staring at you waiting to be looked at, you need to give your inbox some attention ASAP!
This is not as scary of a process as it sounds. I promise! I have done it for my clients before and they always are amazed at how quickly I can get it done. It doesn’t take an organizational wizard or tech guru to get it done. Check out this article I wrote about the 5 simple steps that you can use to declutter your inbox.
Cull your inbox one time, unsubscribe from almost everything, and set up a handful of filters. Then check your email once or twice a day and you’ll never end up with a crazy inbox again.
With amazing cameras right in our pockets, it’s hard to not take a picture of every event and silly thing that happens to us. We want to keep it as a memory for ourselves or to share with others. This is one area of digital clutter that I often forget to clear out.
How many of those pictures that you took in the last month are things you really care to keep?
You needed to send your spouse a picture of that box of mix to make sure they got the right one at the store.
You saw a funny meme that you shared with friends.
You took a picture or video of your kid being a goof to send to family.
Are all of these images that you will care about in the future? You’re probably only saying “yes” to the last example. Those others are just taking up space! Even if you have unlimited storage, you now have to scroll past those images in order to find the pictures of truly important things.
When you have a pocket of 10-20 minutes in your day, go through and delete those pictures that aren’t relevant anymore. Here are some tips for how to organize them after you’re done deleting them.
Your Hard Drive
This one is probably the easiest and quickest to declutter.
When was the last time you went through all of the documents on your computer? Probably never. I know that you are probably like me and save everything on the cloud somewhere, right? So what’s actually on your computer hard drive? If you don’t know, then it’s definitely time to take a look.
Start with your “Downloads” folder. Every time you download a program, zoom call, document, etc your computer automatically saves it to this folder. This can add up really quickly and since it’s hidden in a folder, we forget it’s even there. While this is often not an apparent productivity challenge, if you have a lot of stuff sitting on your computer taking up space, your computer will run slower.
I use my downloads folder all of the time because it’s how I manage my social media images and such. If I don’t regularly go through and delete things I don’t need anymore, then it can easily add a minute or two to the time it takes me to get my posts uploaded and scheduled because I’m stuck searching through a bunch of now-irrelevant stuff.
After you’ve cleared your downloads folder, take a look at the programs downloaded and running on your computer. Computers will often come with non-vital programs on them that you’ll never use. Delete them and help your computer work easier.
Also, PLEASE don’t be a desktop icon hoarder. Clear those puppies out! Group them in folders or delete them altogether!
Your Phone & Tablet
I’ve grouped these together because they work the same way. Do this to both and you’ll be all set!
You’re already working through your pictures and videos, so that will open up quite a bit of space on your phone. Now it’s time to check all of your apps.
How many home screens do you have?
Do you have apps sorted by their function?
How many apps do you have that you never use?
On my iPhone, I have 3 home screens and honestly, I should probably only have 2. It’s definitely time for me to declutter my phone again. My first page has apps that I use all of the time for personal things. Banking, trackers, weather, etc. My second page has apps I use for my business. LinkedIn, Trello, Podcasts, etc. My 3rd screen has apps that I use less often for personal use.
Once you’ve deleted all of the unnecessary apps, group your apps by their function. For instance, all of your social media apps or your image editing apps.
After a short adjustment period, taking these steps will allow you to find what you need much faster.
Your Cloud Storage
Alright, now it’s time for the big one. Your documents. It’s time to go through all of your digital files and delete was is no longer relevant and sort what’s left into folders. I also strongly suggest you create a naming structure so you can properly use the search function in your drive. At the bottom of this post, you’ll see how I organize my Google Drive.
Cloud storage is where most documents go to die. They sit there, lonely and forgotten, for an eternity because even when you search for them, you can’t find them (cue naming structure). As your business changes and grows, the documents you need and refer to will change. Freebies that were helpful when you were just starting out are no longer relevant because that info is now second nature to you. You’ve hired someone to handle your bookkeeping so you can delete all “how to” documents related to your finances.
This one will take time and will be incredibly tedious. But like everything else mentioned in this post, when it’s done you will feel refreshed and it will be simple to keep yourself from ever going back.