Fifteen years ago, we had two places to look for a digital file- on your laptop or desktop. Today, we can store files on our computers, in the cloud, in an email, on our phones and more.
These incredible technologies have made it easier for us to store limitless information, but most of us don’t keep that information organized and clutter-free so that it’s quick and easy to access. In fact, a 2020 study showed that we’re spending 45 minutes a day searching through digital clutter just to find the information we need to complete a task.
This constant searching causes frustration, stress, and anxiety and also costs something invaluable, our time.
So, What is digital clutter?
Digital clutter is the disorganization of your data and digital devices. This includes files, folders, the internet (bookmarks, tabs), Apps, emails, notifications, and more.
How Digital Clutter Impacts Productivity
Digital clutter affects our productivity the same way that clutter in our homes would affect us.
- Digital clutter causes us to be less focused with constant notifications and communication.
- We procrastinate because finding what we need in digital clutter isn’t easy.
- It slows down our devices: When we have too many apps, too many files, and too many windows open, our devices slow down.
- Time wasted on too many social media platforms- spending hours hopping from one platform to the next.
- All the digital information we consume in a day can weigh us down as we try to sleep. Most people get 6 hours of sleep a night when 8 hours is recommended leaving many of us sleep-deprived. People who are sleep-deprived make more errors, have less reaction time and take longer to complete tasks.
- The feeling of overwhelm you can get from constant overstimulation of our electronic devices can cause us to shut down, give up, or believe we can’t complete the task.
What to do about it
Below are tips you can implement to declutter and better organize your data and devices.
The average person spends 3-6 hours a day on email. Therefore, keeping your email as clean and organized as possible is key to productivity.
Create a system for yourself:
- Put aside a half an hour to an hour- first thing in the morning- to action any new emails while you are out of the office or away.
- I suggest setting specific times of day that you look at your email. i.e. noon, 2 pm and 4 pm and action those emails immediately. Aim to have your inbox empty by the end of the day.
- Create folders for the information you may need in the future or important emails you want to keep. Grouping by “sender” is a great way to organize your emails. Consider creating an “in progress” folder for those emails you’re currently working on or that you can’t action immediately.
- Schedule time (weekly) to go through your inbox and folders and delete anything that is no longer necessary.
Tip: Use software like “unroll me” or unsubscribe to any emails you’re not reading.
Tip: If you like a particular newsletter or email that arrives in your inbox weekly, consider creating a filter that will automatically place that email directly into its folder. That way, the email won’t clutter your inbox.
Tip: Unless you need them for work emergencies- turn off notifications and alarms for new emails.
Computer or laptop
- Keep your desktop clean! Consider using a beautiful picture or a motivational quote as your background, so it deters you from covering it up with files and folders.
- Use the “pin” feature to keep track of important folders you use often and only keep apps on your desktop that you use EVERY DAY!
- Create a “temp” folder for incoming and outgoing files that will move to a master folder, be deleted, or be used in some way by the end of the day. You can use this folder for files you’re working on during the day. The goal is to have the “temp” folder empty by the end of the day.
- Use the cloud as much as possible to store files so you don’t slow down your computer.
Create a digital filing system: (below is a high-level example of how to organize your folders and files)
- Create master folders such as Personal and Business OR Personal and Family
- Inside those Master Folders is everything that relates to each Master Folder: For example: under Personal you may have subfolders called recipes, pictures, music, home, car, accounting etc.
- Tip: try to always group related files into sub-folders. Try not to have more than 5 free files in any given folder.
- Consider using an excel sheet to track how you’ve set up your digital filing system so you can quickly see where you have kept things if you have too many files to remember.
To increase the speed of your computer/laptop:
- Monthly or quarterly, uninstall apps you don’t use- this will help speed up the computer
- Delete the contents in your downloads folder and your recycling bin daily.
- Disable non-essential programs at start-up
To help keep your device and you running at optimal speed:
- On the main screen of your phone, create Master Folders that you understand. For example, work, personal, banking, games, social media, media and put corresponding apps in those folders.
- Turn off notifications that aren’t necessary.
- Go through your phone apps every three months. If you didn’t use it or if it didn’t work as you wanted it to, delete it.
- Delete photos you don’t want to keep and upload those to the cloud that you do.
- Turn off auto app updates
It’s easy to let our digital files and emails get out of control. Remember to keep on top of it with these tips because your time and how it’s spent is invaluable.
If you’d like more information about the Calm The Clutter home organization course, click HERE.
You can also check out my new course Paper Organization: How to Declutter and Organize Paperwork HERE. A course for an unbelievable low price! The topics include
- Benefits of organizing your paperwork
- Paper organization goals
- What to do before organizing your paperwork
- What to keep and for how long
- How to sort and organize paperwork
- What to do with incoming paperwork
- Where to go from here!
Before you go, don’t forget to join our Facebook group “Organize For Success” HERE.
Or download my 7 Top Organizing Tips to Get You Started for more organizing tips.