When it comes to tidying up our workspaces to be more productive, our focus is usually on the stuff around the computer - the file folders, post-it notes and overflowing piles of paperwork. But while it is important to organize your desktop, tidying up the computer itself can make a big difference in your productivity since you won’t have to spend hours looking for a single email or piece of saved information.
So, how do you do it? Try these six simple steps and you’ll be feeling less like a hoarder and more like a virtual virtuoso in no time!
1. Clear off your desktop.
When I help clients and readers clear their physical clutter, I advise them not to jump in to too much, too fast. It is best to move through one room at a time, de-cluttering each space before moving on to the next. And your virtual space is no different. Before diving into all your folders and bookmarks, you need to start at the “front door” – your desktop. Go over each icon and determine if it’s truly useful to you anymore or not. Chances are, you will probably have to click on many of them to even remember where they lead.
- If it is a shortcut to a program or webpage that you use on a regular basis, leave it.
- If it is a shortcut to a program or webpage that you don’t use on a regular basis, but you truly want/need to use it in the near future (and therefore, don’t want to forget about it), add it to your bookmarks and delete the shortcut from your desktop.
- If it is a shortcut to a program or webpage that you haven’t used recently and honestly probably won’t be anytime soon, delete it. If you’ve made it this long without it, you’ll be fine.
After you have worked through all of your icons and kept only the ones that are absolutely necessary, you may find it helpful to organize them into categories like work, personal, graphics, courses, webpages, or whatever works best for you. Then you can group those icons together on a certain part of the desktop, keeping them visually organized at a glance.
2. Sort through your bookmarks.
Now, this is one that might take a while if you’re anything like me (bookmarking things left and right), but in the end, it will be worth it because you will actually be able to find something when you need it.
Just like with the icons, work your way through each bookmark determining its usefulness. It’s important to be totally honest with yourself here (remember how your computer got so cluttered up in the first place) and only keep those links that you actually use and return to on a regular basis. There will probably be a lot of webpages that you don’t even remember marking in the first place, so those should be easily removed. But for the ones that you’re struggling with – where you genuinely believe they are useful but you forget about them or they have a few bits of information on them that you find useful - there are a few additional steps you can take:
- For pages where the whole site is useful, keep the bookmark, but go into your “Bookmark Manager” and create category folders so you can access the information more easily and quickly. For example, “Coupon Sites”, “Health Information” or “Subscriptions.”
- For pages where you only need a bit of information or want to keep a particular photo or recipe, utilize online apps like Pinterest or Evernote to save those clips and then delete the bookmark.
3. Go through your address book and merge all your contacts.
Another way to easily lose time (and space) on your computer, is hunting for someone’s correct contact information. Most email programs are set up to automatically save all of your previous contacts, which can be both a blessing and a curse. Handy, yes. But when you still have an email address for someone you volunteered with one time ten years ago, it can be a bit much.
Take the time to go through your contact list and delete any contacts that you no longer need. Then, merge information for contacts that have more than one stored email address, so they will appear together under the contact’s name. Or even better, email the contact at both addresses and ask which one is correct. When they respond, go into their information and remove the old address right away.
4. Go through your email and organize, organize, organize!
This is probably THE worst spot for virtual clutter – email. First of all, for those of you that have 1,000-some unread emails, it’s time to go through them. Now. I don’t even know how you stand it! But once that is done, it’s time to go through your inbox and delete all the stuff that doesn’t need to stay. Generally speaking, this would be anything that does not:
- Contain important information regarding an event, person, account, course, bill, etc. that you will need to access or review again at a later point
- Have sentimental value or personal significance
- Contain a coupon or offer that is NOT expired
Messages that you are saving simply because you still need to respond to them should be marked as “important” and kept right at the top of your inbox, so you can respond to them ASAP (and then delete or file them appropriately). All of the messages that do make the cut do not need to stay in your inbox, however. Creating folders for different categories and then filing the messages appropriately will make the information easier to find later and therefore, save you time.
Lastly, manage your subscriptions! We all sign up for things with the best of intentions, but later, end up with 100 newsletters that we don’t even read filling up our inbox. So now is the time to take care of them. You can either go through them individually and manually hit the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of the ones you no longer wish to receive. Or you can use an app like Unroll Me that organizes your subscriptions for you. It automatically detects all of them and prompts you to decide what you want to do with each one – keep it in your inbox, unsubscribe or keep it but have it go to your daily “rollup” which appears at a pre-determined time as one main email. This is helpful for keeping subscriptions that offer coupons or offers that you may want to access occasionally, but not need to see every day.
5. Organize File Explorer.
Last but not least, it’s time to go through your files on your hard drive. This is another place where old documents may have gone to die, but now you can give them a proper send-off (to the recycle bin). Just like with your emails, delete files with no sentimental value or that you no longer require access to. If a document contains personal information that you are concerned about being retrievable later (even after you delete it), try using a free tool like Eraser or CCleaner. These programs overwrite the files and then, in the case of CCleaner, clear the space on your hard drive.
If you haven’t been good about organizing your files as you save them, spending the extra time to set up category folders now will also make the documents easier to access when you need them. You should also make it a habit of saving your files to an external hard drive on a regular basis, so you won’t lose everything in case of a computer crash.
6. Break up with social media?
There’s one more step to virtual de-cluttering that can be hugely beneficial, but might make some of you shudder at the thought – break up with social media. Gasp, I know. But I speak from experience, it can be done. I haven’t had a personal Facebook profile since 2013 and I haven’t looked back once!
Social media can not only eat up massive amounts of time as you get pulled in to browsing your feeds, but can also leave you feeling depressed and dejected after comparing yourself to the seemingly “perfect” lives of others. Not to mention its ability to take your focus off of actually being in the moment because you’re too concerned with posting about it so everyone else knows.
If a total break-up sounds too extreme, than start slow. Decide what one or two platforms you like the best and then deactivate the others. Or at the very least, turn your notifications off so you don’t feel compelled to check them every five minutes.
I promise, it won’t kill you. So why not cut the cord and choose to actually live your life instead!
Ready to de-clutter the rest of your life too? Grab my FREE 5-part “Jump Start Guide” right here for tons of information on downsizing and de-cluttering, PLUS clean eating, non-toxic products, emotional health and “bucket list living”!