We’re halfway through summer! Noooooo….
Our daughter went away to sleepaway camp last week for the first time. She loved it. We had a date week – yes you read that correctly – a week. We enjoyed dinners out with friends and snuck away to Boston for a few nights where we saw the Red Sox win and toured the Old North Church. We even found my apartment (from 31 years ago!) in the North End. It’s being completely renovated.
Before our trip, I decided to declutter and organize a few rooms in our home. We started with the daughter’s bathroom and bedroom and even set up a filing system for my personal papers. I have amazing systems for this for your office and home office – ask me how to get on my schedule. I only have a few times left in August.
Now that our home feels so light and amazing, I have turned my focus to my computer. I will be hosting the free Digital Detox Challenge starting Monday, July 20th at 11 am eastern on my Facebook page Productivity by Design. Join me over 10 business days where we get our digital homes in order. It’s going to be fun! Not on Facebook? The videos will be posted on my YouTube channel immediately following. I’ll send you a quick email on Monday with more details.
I asked Ann Marie Van den Hurk of Mind the Gap PR to write a guest article to kick off the Digital Detox.
What is Digital Clutter?
If you have a desktop, tablet or smartphone you likely have digital clutter. Be honest – how long did it take you to search for that Excel spreadsheet for your client, that family photo or crucial email you need to forward to your business colleague?
Did you know that the average employee spends 1.8 hours per day searching and researching information? That is a lot of wasted time!
It’s time to get real. We are overwhelmed with data – the documents, the photos, and the music. The endlessness of the digital space has made clutter worse by allowing us to keep everything from ten versions of that one MS Word document to all of the photos of your trip to the park including the out-of-focus ones. In other words, as Parkinson’s Law suggests that stuff expands to fit the space so go our hard drives and virtual file hosting services.
OK, so how do you digitally declutter?
There are strategies and tools available to help you simplify your digital life and restore your productivity. The key is to find a system that works for you and keeps your data safe.
Organize Your Passwords
Most people use the same password for most of their logins. While it makes it easier for you to remember the hundreds of online accounts, you are making it easier for hackers. Once they know one password then they will try it elsewhere to see where it leads them. Do not have the same password for important sites like banking, insurance, or medical. If you do, then please change them now.
Develop a system for password management, so you have easy access to all of your passwords. Try an alphanumerical order noting what password goes with each site. Try to move away from those sticky notes stuck to your monitor. Look into one of the password vaults on the market such as LastPass to store your passwords.
One way to manage the email and file clutter is to create a folder system then use it religiously. For example, if you shop a lot online then create site-specific folders so you can keep track of orders, shipping, and return confirmation emails. I have email folders set-up for everything from clients to family. Use the tools provided to you in your email package. Flag emails requiring action and once dealt with file in the specific folder or delete.
Label in a systematic way. As you use your system you will wonder how you lived without one. You can also use file tags to identify files. Many software programs offer file tags including Adobe PDF. There is hard-drive organizer software that allows you to rid your hard drive of duplicate files and folders. Also, you can create a file index listing all of your data in a standardized way. Keywords can be placed in it to allow for a simple search.
Microsoft and Apple operating systems have search functions to assist you in finding files. There are Internet search tools beyond Google and Bing such as Ask, Lycos, and AltaVista.
Many of us have heaps of paper on our desks and floor. For example, if you have business-related receipts, you need to keep them handy for taxes. Many of the online bookkeeping services like Fresh Books allows for attachments to your entry. You can get a receipt scanner starting at about $70. Use the same file naming and filing system as you would above. Simplicity and systems are key!
There is nothing like a pen and paper to write a to-do list until you leave it on the countertop. Writing things down helps us remember them. But you can take your to-do list to digital.
There are many task managers out there. Some are “free”. Email packages, such as Microsoft Outlook and Apple’s Reminders, have task managers built into the operating systems. There are downloadable apps for your smartphone such as Wunderlist, Asana, Trello, and Evernote. You can even share information from these apps with others.
Decluttering your digital space helps you feel less stressed and more productive in both your personal and work life.
If you are looking for help with your public relations strategy, please reach out to Ann Marie.
Ann Marie van den Hurk, APR, is a digital public relations professional specializing in reputation and crisis/disaster management including cybersecurity: email@example.com, @amvandenhurk
If you’re ready for a digital detox, keep your eyes open for Monday’s special email with all of the details of our challenge!