10 Steps to a Successful Digital Declutter

Last weekend when I was busy with my usual household tasks, I finally decided to spend a few hours of my life on decluttering my digital world. Truth is, I have been putting this off for months. I am so meticulous when it comes to organizing and tidying all other aspects of my life, but lately my digital world has become a bit of a mess. I scoured the internet for some tips and tricks on where to start, what I should focus on, and what my goals should be. I decided to break my efforts down into the following 10 steps. I encourage you to take some time and perform a digital declutter, too. It left me feeling more organized, less stressed, and more in control of my work.

  1. Focus on one device. I personally jump back and forth between using my iMac, MacBook and iPad on the daily – depending what I’m working on and the mood I’m in. I initially started to organize all devices at once, but it quickly became overwhelming. I would suggest focusing on decluttering one device at a time instead of trying to tackle them all at once. The nice thing about Apple products is that when you’re using the same iCloud login on all devices, certain items you delete on one device will delete across your other ones, reducing the time spent on file clean up. 
  2. Start with a list. Write down anything in your digital life that is making you overwhelmed – your inbox, your desktop screen, spam emails etc. This will help you focus on one area of clean up at a time. 
  3. Tackle your inbox. In an ideal world, I would love to sit down and take the time to create folders and sort all emails into their respective folders, and that is a task that I vow to accomplish in the next few months. However, if you’re like me and don’t have that system set in place just yet, the least you can do is create the folders you want, and sort through any unread messages and reply to any outstanding ones. I realized I had a few unread emails that were in the back of my mind to respond to, but turns out I had already addressed them! There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing ‘0 unread’ in your inbox. If you already have a system in place with folders for every email to call home, congratulations, you’re ahead of the game! I encourage you to clear your inbox (if necessary) of unread emails and stay on top of keeping your folders organized! 
  4. Unsubscribe. Speaking of email inboxes, I keep my work and personal inboxes separate, as we all should. However, my personal inbox is inundated with promotional emails from brands with email lists I signed up for ages ago that I am no longer interested in. The holidays will be here before we know it, and instead of dealing with a flooded inbox everyday, I decided to unsubscribe from newsletters I no longer cared for and updated my email preferences for brands I still wish to receive emails from but on a less frequent basis. 
  5. Re-evaluate your bookmarks. Yes, I am still someone who regularly uses bookmarks and it’s such a great productivity trick! There are websites for work that I frequent on a regular basis, such as websites for Associations we belong to, our promotional partners, long term care news websites and more. Take some time to revisit websites and organize your bookmarks. If you aren’t using bookmarks, now’s the time to start! 
  6. Check out the dreaded ‘Downloads’ folder. I was *shocked* to see how many files I had in my folder, some dating back to a year or more. This step will take some time to complete as you want to carefully go through what is still important to you. When deciding whether or not to delete a file, I heavily relied on memory to recall if I had a more recent version saved elsewhere. If you are ever unsure, always perform a very thorough search across all of your devices before deciding to delete anything. 
  7. Uninstall apps. As you know, applications take precious space on your device. If your device has been slower to respond or ‘bogged down’ be sure to take an inventory on your applications and delete those that you no longer use on a regular basis. 
  8. Tidy up your desktop. The main reason I wanted to complete a declutter was for my desktop screen. I am usually a pretty organized person when it comes to my desktop, but then COVID hit and every little thing I ever worked on or downloaded somehow ended up on this screen. The result? Files upon files stacked on top of each other, to the point where every time I turned my computer on I felt stressed staring at the screen. My tip for you, and what works for me, is to create specific folders for your desktop for things you have worked on in the last 3 months that you will need to reference or use in the next 3 months. For me, that meant folders for ‘Strategy Presentations’, ‘Landing Page’, etc. Anything dating back to more than 3 months ago that I wouldn’t require regular access to were housed in their appropriate folders elsewhere on my computer i.e: Documents > Logos or Documents > Stock Photos. And, as always, delete any duplicate files or older versions. 
  9. Refresh. I know, I know. A wallpaper for your device is purely aesthetic, but when was the last time you updated yours? Find one that sparks joy, motivation, and creativity every time you look at it, such as a calming image, a vision board/collage, a positive quote, or a picture highlighting your ‘why’ – the opportunities are endless. 
  10. Repeat. Congratulations, you made it to the end! Depending on the state of your digital life when you start your declutter, you may have to put quite some time into this process. Rest assured, it’s worth it! A declutter will definitely help with boosting your overall productivity. Remember to repeat this process every 3 or so months to stay on top of your digital life! 

~ Megan Patrakka, Marketing Manager, Plan A Long Term Care Staffing & Recruitment and StaffStat

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