In 2019, we can complete more and more of our daily tasks online — from grocery shopping to filing taxes to operating our businesses.
With this in mind, a good spring clean shouldn’t apply solely to our physical surroundings, but our digital spaces as well.
No doubt about it, digital clutter is distracting, and it cuts down on our productivity levels.
Certified professional organizer Erika Salloux offers some advice on how to tackle three of the most common online organizational problems that we all face.
Tip: Tame Your Inbox
For many of us, getting through our email inboxes is a grueling and time consuming task. If left neglected, thousands of unread emails can build up over time, clogging our inbox and making it harder to sift through to the important messages.
To address this, Salloux recommends treating email like regular mail. Just as you would ideally take in your physical mail every day, go through it to recycle what you don’t need, you should sort and delete your emails on a regular basis.
“Some people, because they have unlimited storage, just keep everything,” she says. “When they are looking for a specific email, they think they can just search for it, but that creates chaos.”
Set three specific times throughout the day to look through your email, respond, save or delete. This saves us from interrupting our tasks to absentmindedly check our email at random. You might not be able to properly respond to an email or send an attachment if you check your email in line for coffee, for example.
“I tell people they shouldn’t check their emails on the fly or on their phone,” says Salloux. “Every time you have to go back to something again, you’re wasting time. You have to re-read it, re-think it.”
Once you’ve processed an email, you don’t necessarily have to keep it. According to Salloux, you should unsubscribe from most email newsletters that are not serving you. You should only save emails that belong in these folder categories to cut down on clutter: retail, events, travel and special project.
- Shipping confirmations, receipts and a select number of sales promotions should live in the retail folder
- Airfare tickets and booking confirmations should go in the travel folder
- Digital tickets to concerts, festivals or other events go in the events folder
- If you’re remodeling your kitchen for example or working on a major project at work, keep the information you need to refer back to in your special project folder
Tip: Make Your Desktop Background Visible
What’s the point of having your beach vacation photo as your desktop background if its completely obscured by file folders?
According to Salloux, there shouldn’t even be anything on your desktop, because you should be able to find anything you need in your computer files.
“Create a computer file system as you would with a regular office file system,” she says. Start off with your major categories, such as work documents, and categorize by date.
To stick to this system, set your internet browser settings so that all your downloads go straight to your desktop. Most computers are set that your downloads go to your downloads folder, but when something goes there, you lose track of it.
But, if your desktop is clear except for the files you just downloaded, “You see it, and you file it away in your computer right then and there,” says Salloux.
The downloads folder is like a black hole, she says. “Sometimes I see people have downloaded the same thing five times because they didn’t realize it was already in their downloads folder. The worst is when they’ve edited a file and then they don’t know which is the most recent copy.”
Tip: Clear Out Social Vomit
Now that you’ve set boundaries for yourself on when and how you check your email, the next major distraction in our digital lives are our social media feeds.
Luckily, we can curate the type of social media we consume by editing these.
Facebook and Instagram give users the option to “unfollow” someone so that they no longer show up on your feed, but are still technically part of your network. This means that when you do open your app, the first thing you see isn’t your mouthy relative or that jet-setting social influencer who gives you major FOMO. Instead, you see your inspiring mentor or industry news source.
Salloux recommends being mindful of how much time you spending on social media by tracking it through a feature like Screen Time on your iPhone. It can be an invaluable resource.
If you find that you’re spending more than four hours a day on Facebook, you can set a new desired time limit and your phone will notify you once you’ve reached that limit.
“Some people are super surprised to learn that they’re spending six hours a day on social media,” says Salloux. “They would have had no idea until they saw the numbers.”
Looking at the cold, hard numbers is a good place to start. Unfollow or delete those accounts that are not educating or entertaining you, but are just making you feel more overwhelmed or unhappy.
With all this digital clutter cleared up, you’re giving yourself more time and energy, allowing you to accomplish your goals — IRL.