In the five decades I’ve spent on this planet, technology just keeps making life easier. We no longer need to unfold that huge map in the car when trying to find our vacation destination (thank goodness). Wondering what the outside temp is? No need to walk out the front door, look in today’s newspaper, or even get out of bed. Simply ask Alexa (or Echo or Siri…you get it), and you’ve got your answer. CDs, cassettes, and those wonderful eight-track tapes are also a thing of the past now that music streams wherever and whenever we want it.
I remember taking a graduate level class in the early 90s. The professor let us know we’d be trying something called electronic mail. We were to type up a brief message for him and then send it to him electronically. I remember at the time thinking it was a waste of time. Why should I type up a message when he was right there in the classroom with me? And outside of class time, I could call or stop by his office to get any questions I had answered. Fast forward almost 30 years, and email has become a regular part of most professionals’ days. It’s so regular, in fact, many of those same professionals have hundreds (and even thousands for some) of unread emails. And that’s just the beginning of the digital clutter we deal with.
Digital clutter comes in many forms. Email is part of it, but so are the files with no consistent naming convention; the many, many, MANY photos we no longer develop or print but now leave floating around on our computers; the software or apps we no longer use; the desktop icons that cover so much of our desktop we’re not even sure what’s under them; and the freebies we happily accept only to be added to yet another email list (thus adding to the emails we already have too many of).
Just as there are strategies for overcoming the physical clutter discussed here last month, there are also tactics to follow to feel more settled with the digital part of our lives.
Decluttering Your Email
Time-blocking email is an effective approach to ensure that inbox doesn’t get out of hand. Rather than checking email multiple times per day, block out 30-minute time slots in the morning and afternoon. Some people will need more time than that; others will need less. The main idea is to tackle as many emails as possible in one time block. What do you do during that time block?
Delete those you don’t need.
File those you’ve read and need to keep.
Reply to the others and then file those, too.
Just as we empty the mail from our physical mailbox each day, we should also be taking care of the emails that come our way.
As for filing emails that are in progress, an effective practice is to add two folders at the top of the list of folders: #Action and #Waiting For. The #Action folder is for those emails you are in the process of handling. You’ve added a time block to your schedule to complete whatever it is that’s needed for those emails. The #Waiting For emails are those in progress because someone else needs to do his/her part before you can complete your part.
Managing Files and Photos
It’s easy to endlessly save files and photos without putting much thought into where they’re being saved and how they’re being named. After a while, the files and photos scattered all over our computer give us the same uneasy feeling we get when physical clutter takes over our workspace or home. To get started with a manageable folder structure, rename any folder currently named New Folder; delete all folders with nothing in them; and commit to spending one time-block per week reviewing one folder at a time to get it organized.
When we used to develop photos, we occasionally had some that didn’t turn out well. I never kept those photos in my photo albums. I tossed them out. Same goes for the photos being auto-imported to our computers. Delete the bad ones upon taking them, and if they somehow manage to get to your computer, take the time to delete them so it’s easier to find the ones you do want to go back to.
Delete Outdated Software and Apps
This one is simple. If you don’t use them, uninstall/delete them. Why allow them to take up space on your hard drive?
Clean Up Your Desktop Icons
Covering your desktop with icons is the equivalent of working at a cluttered desk. A clean work area—desktop and desk—not only clears our workspace: it also allows us to focus on the task at hand. Those icons can easily be deleted from the desktop or moved to another, more appropriate place on your computer. Slide them to the trash or folder in which they belong, and you’ll once again see the background you haven’t seen in ages!
Freebies are those amazing offers we feel we MUST have when given the opportunity. We say yes to the list of 50 ways to lose 10 pounds in a week; the recipe for the meal every family loves (with no complaints ever!); or the how-tos for building a seven-figure business. We say yes, we get what we said yes to, and then the emails keep coming…and coming…and coming.
When you realize those emails aren’t helping you and are actually adding more digital clutter to your life, it’s time to hit that Unsubscribe button. Your email inbox will thank you.
Technology provides so many advantages for us all. It is truly our friend. Make sure it stays a tried-and-true friend rather than a can-I-trust-her friend by clearing your digital clutter and keeping it organized once and for all!
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