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Keeping Your Digital Desk Clean

Blog | Life and Leadership   |   September 29, 2017

Majority of what we used to have on our workdesks now comes in digital form.

A digital desk is easier to fill with clutter because the clutter is seemingly invisible.

Before you know it, you can no longer keep track of how many online accounts you have, and you’ve amassed mountains of files. It’s easy to allow them to pile up because they’re in gigabytes, instead of stacks of paper.

Digital clutter is still clutter, and we don’t realize how much brain space their existence can use up.

By introducing certain habits, we can reduce digital clutter in our lives. Keeping our digital desks clean can help clear our mind, as well as save time in the future.

Have an archiving system for your files

Everyone needs a digital archive. Whether it’s for work files or personal files, old files or pictures, these are the equivalent of boxes of work stuff and memories you don’t need now, but want to keep for reference when they’re needed. Instead of allowing your digital library of files to endlessly expand, start by differentiating what’s current, and what can be placed in digital storage. This will also give you a better picture of your current workload, and get rid of an illusion of overload.

Regularly clear out junk

Digital trash is heavier than we think! In the same way we clear out our physical garbage or papers and post-its that are of no more use to us, we ought to do the same with digital mail and files. Throw away junk mail! Unsubscribe from unnecessary notifications. Don’t subscribe to a lot of daily or weekly emails because after not checking email for a couple of days, or going on vacation, you’ll come back to another mountain of junk. After making online purchases, you get added to a mailing list, so make sure to unsubscribe right away. Make sure you don’t have more email accounts than you can manage or keep up with. And get rid of what you hardly use on your phone or computer. If it’s an app, it will always be there anyway when you want to download it again.

Reduce digital obligations

If you have multiple social media and blog accounts, it follows that you should be updating them regularly, or you’d be considered a digital walking dead. If you can no longer handle updating your accounts, they don’t need to exist. It’s a false need. They also occupy brain space and are digital old dusty boxes of stuff from the past. You can always archive your content anyway. Even if the blog account is free, it is using up digital space in some company’s server.

Consume, rather than compile

How many times have you started reading an article and thought, let me bookmark this and read it later. But then you never get to read it. I used to have a folder of downloaded “things to read” until I came to realize I was dumping these tasks on my future self. It’s more productive to just take the next 10 minutes now, and finish reading it than “save it for later”. Most of the time, we never find that “later”. Adobe’s research shares that over twelve billion pieces of new content are generated every day. With digital media content, either consume it now, or throw it out and keep your mind free for what’s coming.

Keep your current projects at the forefront

Just like on your workdesk, the papers and notes you have right now are for current projects. You don’t place them with everything else in the archive. They stay current and are easy to access. You can do the same for your digital desk. Label things properly and organize. Come up with your own system of classification and organization. You can have a hot folder with a shortcut, for all the things you are currently rushing, so you don’t have to go through digital ladders and mazes every time you need to access your draft, for example. Computer-cleaning apps will alert you when you have old files, recommending you to archive them instead of keeping them on your active hard drive.

Bonus tip!

And lastly, here’s a bonus tip. The digital world has greatly altered our habits and suck big chunks of our time, sometimes without us even knowing. Try tracking your time and finding out how much time you spend on computers and devices, compared to let’s say spending time with people, or taking a walk, or thinking with a notebook and pen, and actually enjoying and living and breathing in the physical world. Get unplugged once in awhile, use your muscles, arms, legs. Remember, you the human, are the master, and your phone and computer are your slaves. Not the other way around.

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