(As previously seen on the HelaWrite blog.)
I’m continuing with the theme of organization, which I wrote about yesterday. Today, I want to focus specifically on digital organization. As the “age” of the Internet has become the norm rather than a breakthrough, all things digital are here to stay. That being said, it is easy to become a digital hoarder. (Think: Pinterest.)
Though it’s great to have so many resources at our fingertips, digital clutter can become just as overwhelming as physical clutter. Here are some easy things you can do–this week–to diminish those megabytes of crap, and find zen with your computer.
1. Stop hanging on to old e-mails.
- I personally don’t understand those of you who have over 1000 e-mails in your inbox. Why? If you MUST save an email, archive it or forward it to Evernote for digital filing.
- E-mails should read and deleted; read, replied to, and deleted; or deleted right away if it’s spam. Out of 2 e-mail inboxes, I currently have 5 e-mails. That’s it. And the only reason I don’t have inbox zero right now is because each email sitting there is something I must take care of tonight or tomorrow (they’re each flagged as reminders). Otherwise, they get filed in Evernote or a Gmail folder, or sent to the trash.
- Deleted/trashed e-mails should be permanently deleted at the end of every month. Just get rid of it!
- Delete spam every day or every week. It doesn’t need to be hanging out in your spam folder until the zombie apocalypse.
- Unsubscribe from junk or e-newsletters that you don’t read/care about/use/etc. This can take a while, especially if you’re addicted to subscribing to every shoe deal that comes your way. When I unsubscribed from irrelevant e-newsletters, it took me about 6 weeks–but I did it! My inbox is a much happier place.
2. Keep your contacts updated.
- Check your contacts every 3-4 months and keep them updated. You may have 5 Jims in your contact list, all without last names. Don’t be the guy who has to call all 5 of them in order to find the right one.
- If you still use a Rolodex… Just. Stop. Seriously. Rolodexes are like pudding pops. Do they even make pudding pops anymore? (Cue Jimmy Fallon’s Real Housewives of Late Night parody here.) Transfer your contacts to a contacts app (or similar) and never lose track of contacts again! You can even sync contacts apps with your smart devices. (I’m still trying to get my mom to do this, but she really loves her old skool address book…)
3. Overhaul your computer documents.
- Consolidate similar documents and put them into folders that make sense. For example, in my HelaWrite (business) folder, I have sub-folders like: “Clients,” “Payments,” “Quotes,” and “Marketing.” (To name a few.)
- Purge/delete older versions of the same file. Do you have 20 documents of your resume? Just keep the one that is updated and get rid of the rest.
- Do you still have files/documents that you need but don’t use often? Use Dropbox! I have the desktop plugin and LOVE it! I don’t have to sign in on my web browser to access it; I simply open it up on my desktop and drag and drop files I need to keep but don’t use often. Try it out if you don’t yet do this.
4. Check other storage/backup apps/devices.
- If you use Evernote as often as I do (which is on a daily basis), chances are that you have a lot of notes that need to be deleted or moved to another folder. Look through all your notebooks and get rid of what you don’t need. Add tags to tagless notes. Put a deadline on notes that you want to read (like helpful articles).
- Also check apps like Dropbox (mentioned in the previous step) and get rid of files you don’t need anymore. Leave shared folders that you don’t need to share anymore, too. You’ll be surprised at how much space you can free up and use for more important things.
- And the CARDINAL RULE of all things digital: you MUST–absolutely MUST–have backups of your files. And I’m not talking about a little USB drive (unless it has some serious GBs). I’m talking about an external hard drive PLUS Dropbox PLUS Evernote PLUS Google Drive… in other words, do what it takes to protect your stuff in case of a loss. 10 years ago, my laptop was stolen, and had I backed up all my files, I would have cried less. Lesson learned. I back up my files at least twice a week now, if not more. You should do the same.
There is, of course, so much more you can do to become digitally organized, but I’m not trying to overdo it today. If you can get through the steps above, I’m sure you’ll have more ideas in regards to other digital arenas in your professional and personal life that need some T.L.C.
Can you think of further digital organization tips? Do you want to share? If so, please feel free to leave a comment.