We all need a little order in our lives, right? Chances are, you’ve probably heard about the Marie Kondo organizing craze and maybe even sorted through your things to find the ones that “spark joy.” Well, don’t forget about organizing the stuff in your digital life, too. Just like our physical world, our digital life needs a little tidying up from time to time.
Here are five steps you can take to build good habits that will help you save time and keep your digital life in order — and you won’t have to throw out your phone or laptop!
Take a look around
One of the first steps to bringing a little order to your digital life is to look around your devices to figure out what needs fixing. Ask yourself, is your phone or laptop running out of space? How many duplicate photographs and video files do you have? Is that search made even more painful because you have several versions of one specific file with very similar file names?
Once you’ve figured out what your pain points are, it’s time to make a plan. What part of your digital life do you want to put in order first? One of the first steps I’d recommend would be to …
Purge unwanted files
Just like when you’re organizing your closet, you’ve got to clear some things out of your digital life, too. With clothing and accessories, you let go of the ones that just don’t fit or flatter you anymore. Maybe you haven’t worn them in months. It’s the same process with your digital things. If you’re not sure where to start, here are a few digital files you can quickly and easily purge right now:
- Unused apps. Delete any apps that you haven’t used in the last 3-4 months because if you haven’t used them yet, you probably never will. iOS mobile users can let their phones delete apps automatically by enabling the “Offload Unused Apps” feature (in Settings).
- Duplicates and blurry photos. Duplicates of any kind (like”burst photos” and screenshots) can head straight to the virtual trash can. Unlike physical copies that you can give to someone else (like pictures), digital duplicates just sit on your devices and eat away at valuable space. Also, if you can’t figure out what you took a picture of (or why), take one last good look and then let it go. Blurry and unrecognizable photos definitely don’t spark joy, so out they go! #enoughsaid
- Text messages. Do you still have text from years and years ago? They could be the reason that your mobile device might be running out of space (especially if they include attachments). Head over to your settings to automatically delete those old texts.
- E-mails. Before you trash all your old, unneeded emails, you should hit the “unsubscribe” or “spam” button first. Sometimes, those newsletters that you signed up for just don’t “fit” you anymore. Look for the unsubscribe button or link at the bottom of those emails so you can stop receiving them. Gmail users can also use an unsubscribe feature that’s native to the app. And, if a message is clearly spam, designate it as junk mail. Okay, now you can delete these emails and rest assured that all those unwanted messages won’t end up in your inbox again.
Put digital files in Folders
Resist the urge to dump everything on your desktop so that you don’t end up with a jumbled (and very distracting) mess. Once you’ve finished purging, think about putting your files in folders. For instance, you might have a folder for personal files and one for work. Other categories might include:
- Vacations and travel (categorize by year or location)
- Projects (including your side projects)
- Photographs and videos (event or project)
Whatever folders or categories you decide to use, be sure that you use a name that’s easy for you to remember. If it’s too complicated, you’ll forget and start down a rabbit hole of frustration, endless searches, and disorder.
Keep your accounts safe
Since our lives are often intertwined with all things digital, we usually have lots of online accounts. Those accounts come with passwords that we need to remember, and it can be tempting to use the same password for each one. But, don’t do that! If one of your accounts gets hacked, all of your other accounts that use the same password will be at risk. And, please don’t put them on sticky notes on your laptop where they can be easily seen by others.
Let password manager apps, like LastPass, help. Instead of trying to remember the passwords for each of your accounts, you only have to remember one (your master password) and let your password manager do the rest. This is a huge time (and a brain) saver. Prefer using your desktop? Install the browser extension to organize and keep your passwords safe, generate strong passwords for new accounts, and even update some of your old ones.
Schedule digital maintenance days
Alright, when you’ve done all of the heavy lifting, that doesn’t mean you can “set it and forget it.” Once you’ve sorted, purged, and categorized your digital files, be sure to maintain the order you’ve created, or else things will simply go back to the chaos and disarray.
Start by scheduling digital maintenance days. For example, if you love taking lots of pictures and selfies, you could schedule a weekly (or monthly) picture purging session to get rid of all duplicates, burst and blurry pics. Set a schedule that’s easy for you to stick to and add a digital reminder so you don’t forget. And, for those days when things are a little hectic, a digital task list or checklist can come in handy.
Once you work these steps into an easy routine, you’ll free up much needed space on your devices, find what you want when you want it, and regularly keep your digital life in order.
Deb Lee is a Digital Productivity Coach, Certified Professional Organizer®, speaker, and lover of all things tech. She’s also addicted to apps and loves helping small business owners leverage technology so they can be more productive.