How to Declutter Your Digital Life in 7 Days

Don’t wait until 2020 to get organized

Photo by STIL on Unsplash

December is the time of year when two types of people show up — those in a state of flow and relaxation because they’ve accomplished everything they’ve intended to, or those in a self-induced panic because they’re trying to fit 12 months of new goals, ideas, and/or habits into the next 30 days.

Let’s be real: whatever grandiose ideas you didn’t accomplish earlier this year may not come to pass, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start 2020 on the right foot, starting today.

For some, that may look like starting 2020 with a fresh start: no more being weighed down by stuff. And how do you do that? You get organized.

When seeing the word “organized,” I challenge you to think beyond giving gently used sweaters and unused dishes to the Goodwill and to include your digital cutter, as well.

Deb Lee, business consultant and productivity coach, writes, “digital clutter is similar to physical clutter. If we don’t use our devices effectively, everything we’re gaining in convenience is outweighed by the frustration and anxiety it causes, not to mention the lost time.”

Based on Lee’s definition, everything we use digitally should enhance our lives. So, think about it. How many apps do you have on your phone right now that you aren’t using? How does your email inbox look? How many Facebook groups are you a part of but aren’t active in? If it’s not adding to your life, it’s subtracting.

Social media isn’t going anywhere, not anytime soon. And, with 2.65 billion active users, the social networking giants are continuing to grow. That said, social media should be a place where you can connect with your loved ones, grow your business, get the latest celebrity gossip, or even collect new recipes for your next dinner. However, if you’re experiencing thoughts of overwhelm, anxiety, and negative thinking in general, it’s time to assess the role that it plays in your life.

Do you really need to have an account on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest? If you’re using these accounts for personal reasons, maybe not. If you’re using the social networks for business purposes, maybe so.

Are you spending hours of each day on social media, using your personal time to the detriment of your own life? If you had to give yourself a ballpark estimate, what would the number be?

Here is where you begin making the digital decluttering fairies proud — it’s time to delete some folks. Go through the friend or connection list on every social media platform and begin deleting people. But, before you do so, really think about why you’re deleting them. Are you no longer interested in seeing their content on your newsfeed? Are you trying to see less drama on Facebook? Are you trying to grow your skill? Only you know what you need from your social media, so only you know what to do with it.

Whether you’re using Slack or Facebook Groups, there’s no secret in the power of building community. However, if you’re in 100 groups and aren’t actively participating in many of them, it may be time to assess whether or not you need to be there. Are there any Facebook groups that you’ve outgrown or no longer have an interest in?

When not cared for properly, your organization system can end up being the digital equivalent of the kitchen junk drawer. According to the “Lost & Found” survey released by Pixie, “Americans spend an average total of 2.5 days a year looking for misplaced stuff. That’s nearly half a workweek we lose just searching for things.”

This survey applies to physical items and doesn’t include the time that could be lost searching for digital items as well. How can you begin the process of streamlining all of your files and documents?

Before you begin moving files around and accidentally deleting important information, take a long look at all of your files: across your desktop, Google Drive, Dropbox, and any other organization system. Pay special attention to how they’re named and where they’re stored.

After looking at all of your files, begin creating broad categories for different file types. For example, if you have a ton of photos, create a “photo” category. If you have a lot of work documents, create a “work” folder. Essentially, what you’re doing is creating an organized foundation for all of your stuff. After creating the categories, create folders for each type.

Now that you have your basic folders set up, it’s time to start dragging and dropping the appropriate documents and files to their respective folders.

Now that every file and document has a home, it’s time to give them a new room. Comb through the files in each folder and create subcategories. For example, if you have work files, then a subcategory could be “contracts.” If you write articles, then a subcategory would be a genre of the article.

At this point, everything should be where it needs to be — but there’s more. If you had a dollar for every time you forgot what you named a file, how much richer would you be? (I’ll raise my hand at a million).

It’s time to create a naming convention.

Social media platform Coschedule writes, “file naming conventions are labelling formats to ensure files and assets are easy to identify and organize. They include each piece of information that a file name needs in order to make them simple to read and understand.”

When creating a naming convention, keep it simple. There’s no need for anything to be intricate. Let’s start with work files. If you write articles on digital marketing, then your convention could look like: nameofarticle_digitalmarketing_12319. This name includes the name of the article, the type of article, and the date. The goal here is for you to be able to find files quickly and efficiently. Keep a reference sheet of your naming convention nearby.

The dreaded inbox. With email being so integrated into our daily lives, it makes sense to develop a positive relationship with it, right? Now, keep in mind that the suggested system below may not be a one-size-fits-all plan, but it should provide a solid foundation to start with.

This should probably be the first step in all of the decluttering categories, but it’s especially useful for cleaning emails.

Comb through your emails. Pay special attention to how many emails you have and where the bulk of the emails come from.

Now that you’ve assessed the situation, create folders for your emails. You may have a category for work, personal, businesses, high priority, urgent, this week, subscriptions, etc.

This step is a little tricky because before you start dragging and dropping emails into folders, you need a game plan. When will you move the email to the subfolder? Will you move the email while the communication exchange is happening, or after? Will you use the subfolders as an archive system? Take a look at how your email system works. Every system is different.

If you have emails from companies or brands that no longer interest you, unsubscribe.

Now that you have your basic folders set up, it’s time to start dragging and dropping the appropriate emails to the folders.

The average person uses nine apps on their phone per day and 30 per month, according to What’s the point of using apps to simplify our lives if we have so many that we can’t keep track of them?

That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less.

Are you a busy parent that needs scheduling and note apps to keep you organized? Are you an influencer that needs to have all of the social media networks? You just need to make sure you know why you’re using them.

After you’ve thought about why you’re using the apps, reflect on whether or not you actually need them. For example, if you need to make sure your calendar is tight, can you use one app that does everything, or do you need multiple? Sift through the features and benefits of your apps and see what needs to stay or go.

Whatever you don’t need — delete it.

After six days of decluttering, a lot of emotions can set in. Check-in with yourself and think about how you’re feeling and whether or not you feel the decluttering has helped you in any way. If something isn’t working —
change it.

As we become more tied to our digital connections, decluttering is more essential. When we’re intentional about what we take in, we’re practising being mindful without our minds being full — everyone wins that way.

The Startup

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Aleshia S. Patterson

Written by

Content writer and marketer. Published: The Startup, Better Marketing, Storius Magazine, The Ascent. Bibliophile. Tea Drinker. Connect with me:

The Startup

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