Digital clutter slows down your computer over time and leaves you with little space to store your files and personal data, which is why a routine e-clean up is necessary for top performance. But this clutter is also a huge, often invisible productivity-killer. The way you set up your desktop, browser, and file folders can easily be distracting you and weakening your productivity; if you’ve always had the same set up, you may not even realize how the clutter affects you.
Below are 10 digital decluttering projects to streamline your virtual work space. No, I’m not one of those people who insists you delete your social media accounts or stop reading online news in order to reduce digital clutter. Instead, these are some practical tasks that don’t just declutter, but keep you better organized, keep your files safe, and reduce the noise to get the best out of your time online.
1. Declutter your digital documents
- Go through all your documents and delete any that you no longer need
- Resist the “just in case” syndrome — do you really need those old essays, or those notes from now obsolete projects? Didn’t think so.
- If you have a lot of files and/or feel overwhelmed, organize them by date and start with the oldest documents. Break the process down into chunks so you don’t get worn out.
2. Make a zen desktop
- Just like a clean desk helps you focus and be productive, so does a clean desktop
- Clean up the folders and files on your desktop — get rid of app shortcuts
- Use a sleek app launcher instead of your taskbar:
- Make your desktop interface even prettier with Rainmeter, explained here.
- Remember to hide default taskbar. Windows 7 instructions here, Windows 8 here, Macs here.
- Find a minimalist/calm background. Try some of these:
3. Unsubscribe from email lists/newsletters
- Stop thinking “I may need these deals/this newsletter later!”, you won’t.
- Best newsletters to unsubscribe from: online shopping deals. They’re constant and clog up your inbox. Try sites like RetailMeNot to check up on online shopping deals.
- If you MUST keep some kind of newsletter for a particular site/group, update your email preferences to receive fewer updates. There’s usually a link at the bottom of newsletters to edit your email preferences (some only offer the option to unsubscribe completely, however).
- Extra tip: For the next week or two, every time you get a newsletter open it and either unsubscribe or adjust preferences, that way you won’t get lost and overwhelmed sorting through your inbox in one go.
4. Clear out your downloads
- If you’ve never cleaned up your Downloads folder, it’s probably taking up a good amount of storage on your computer
- Again, if you’re overwhelmed by the sheer volume, sort files by date and delete in chunks
- Time saver: If you’ve already backed up all important files, you can simply delete the entire contents of your Downloads folder
5. Use automated inbox sorting
- If you use Gmail, you can set up your inbox to automatically sort your incoming emails like so.
- SaneBox, AquaMail, and Mailbox are a few of the many third party apps that you can use to sort your inbox as well
6. Clean up your bookmarks
- Streamline your browser window by cleaning out your bookmarks.
- Delete what you can, then save the rest with apps like Evernote or Pocket.
7. Delete rarely used accounts
- A great way to cut down on emails sent, time wasted, and passwords to keep track of is deleting accounts that aren’t necessary and that you don’t use often
- JustDeleteMe provides substantial list of frequently used sites and the relative difficulty level of deleting your account on each
8. Organize and delete images
- Organize your photos into folders by date and/or event
- Put them in a cloud drive so you don’t have to store them on your computer (DropBox or OneDrive are good places to keep pictures and other documents)
- Delete any photos that are poor quality or unimportant.
9. Defrag/clean disk
- If you don’t already do this at least somewhat regularly, find your computers defrag control and do it today. (Look up how to find it on your computer if you don’t now where it is.)
- Depending on your OS, you may need to defrag regularly, or simply schedule regular automatic defragging.
- You can also use third party apps, like Disk Space Fan.
10. Defriend, unfollow, and in general clean out your social newsfeeds
- Defriending on Facebook will give you just the stuff that matters on your newsfeed, so you spend less time on the site but still see what your friends and family are up to. Go through your friends list and likes pages and start defriending/unfollowing.
- Unfollowing people on Twitter gives you just the important updates. This is important if you use or want to use twitter for news updates, be it personal interest or work-related. You can also mute people on your Twitter feed.
Remember to pace yourself through these tasks so you don’t feel overwhelmed. Use a task manager to schedule and organize the above tasks, and if you worry about getting hyperfocused or not knowing when to take a break, set timers to limit the time you spend on each project. Happy digital decluttering!
Featured photo credit: PSD Graphics via psdgraphics.com