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Tidy your digital devices, organize your files and folders, detox your inbox, declutter your social media and develop better digital habits to reduce stress, improve productivity and boost your creativity! Here’s how to do a digital declutter…
We know that decluttering our physical workspaces: organizing, tidying, filing, throwing away what we don’t need and developing better systems, can have a huge positive impact on both our mental wellbeing and our productivity levels…
Well, it’s no different with our digital workspaces – the same benefits can be experienced from doing a digital declutter.
In fact, given that the majority of the work we do takes place in the digital realm, it could be argued that a digital declutter will have even more of an impact. Tidying up your digital devices, organizing your files and folders, detoxing your inbox, decluttering your social media and setting up better digital habits can help to reduce stress, improve your productivity and boost your creativity!
Ready to finally get on top of your digital clutter? Book out a whole day and follow the steps below to blitz it all in one go… or sign up for my FREE 30 Day Digital Declutter Challenge and get 1 task per day emailed to your inbox. By this time next month you will be clutter free!
Step 1: Declutter your digital documents
Organize your folder system
Start by doing a thorough audit of all the files and folders on your computer. For most of us, our folder system develops somewhat ‘organically’ and haphazardly. Take time to reorganize it into a more logical system so you can quickly and easily find everything you need.
Delete files you no longer need
As you go through your files, you will almost certainly find files you no longer need or want. Be ruthless! Delete everything you can – resist the temptation to hold onto things ‘just in case’. The fewer files you have, the easier it will be to find the things you do need… and you will also free up space on your computer!
Clear out your downloads
If you are like most people, you will have a huge ‘downloads’ file (the file that everything you’ve ever downloaded automatically gets saved to!) Move everything you want to keep into your new filing system and delete the rest.
Change where downloads go in future
To avoid having a massive messy ‘downloads’ file in future, set things up so that every time you download a file, your computer asks you where you want to file it. You can do this in Chrome by going to Settings >> Advanced >> Downloads and toggling on ‘Ask where to save each file before downloading’. Then make sure you always file each new download in the most appropriate place!
Delete your temporary files
Chances are you also have a ‘temp’ file somewhere, where you store temporary files. Briefly check through the file first to make sure there’s nothing that you wish to keep, then hit delete. Vow in future to only ever use your temp file for genuinely temporary things – that way you’ll never again have to check through your temp file first before you clean it out.
Save files to their proper folder
Now your files are neat and tidy, it’s time to develop some new habits so your files and folders never get in a muddle again. Always make it a habit to save your files to the correct folder – not to downloads, not to your desktop… and think twice before randomly creating a new folder… Do you really need a new folder? And if you do, are you creating the new folder in the right place? It takes a bit of effort to do this if you’ve been used to a messy/haphazard system in the past, but it quickly becomes second nature!
Back up your files
Finally, make sure you have a proper backup system for your files… so if the worst should happen (your computer crashes / falls in a river / gets chewed to bits by your dog…) you can still access all your files.
Good options include:
- Backing up to an external hard drive* (Set a calendar notification to remind you to do this regularly!)
- Backing up to the cloud (I use OneDrive)
- Using a dedicated backup service such as Backblaze
Step 2: Declutter your photos
Organize a folder system
Don’t forget your photos when you reorganize your digital files! Create a simple, logical system so you can always easily find your photos and other images (infographics, social media graphics, Pinterest pins etc.)
File or delete photos
Now have a thorough sort out of all the photos you have currently sitting on your computer – delete anything you no longer need (especially duplicates!) and file the rest in your new, logical, well-organized system.
Move photos off your smartphone
There’s a good chance that a lot of your photos are currently stored on your smartphone. Move your photos off your phone and into your newly organized system.
Backup your photos
Just like the rest of your files, make sure you back up your photos. I find it helpful to back up my photos to OneDrive so all my photos are accessible on all my devices. But you could equally well use Google Drive or DropBox for this.
Step 3: Declutter your desktop
Audit your desktop
Take a long, hard look at all the files and shortcuts which are currently on the desktop of your computer. Remove everything except the absolute essentials. (Or remove everything – there’s no real need for anything to be on your desktop now that everything is so easy to find in your newly organized filing system!)
Stop using your desktop as a default save location
If you’ve been in the habit of using your desktop as the default place to save new files STOP! Now you have your shiny new filing system, there should be no need. (And for documents you access regularly, use the taskbar – see below.)
Tidy up your taskbar
The taskbar (usually found at the bottom of your screen) is a great place to access frequently used apps and documents quickly and easily… but first it might need a bit of a tidy up! Start by pinning the apps to it that you use most frequently (I pin File Explorer, Chrome, Outlook, Excel, Word, PowerPoint, Lightroom, Screencast-O-Matic and Snip & Sketch here, but your needs might be different) and unpinning everything else!
Create shortcuts to documents you use regularly
You can also use the taskbar to provide shortcuts to the documents you use most regularly. To do this, open the document you want to have a shortcut to and then right click the relevant app in the taskbar. You should see that the document appears under ‘Recent’. Hover over the file name and you should see a small pin symbol. Left click on the pin symbol and the document will now appear at the top, under ‘Pinned’. Now whenever you want to access a pinned document, simply right click on the relevant app and click on the file name. This small trick must’ve saved me hours over the years… and because you are limited to the number of pinned documents you are allowed; you will be forced to keep it tidy!
Step 4: Declutter Chrome
Clear out bookmarks / browser extensions
Start by having a thorough clearout of all your old bookmarks and browser extensions. Get rid of anything you no longer need.
Set up a new bookmarks system to aid your productivity
Bookmarks can be a real productivity aid – if you use them wisely! Start with your bookmarks bar along the top. Think about which sites you need access to on a super regular basis and place those bookmarks in your bookmarks bar.
Next rearrange the rest of your bookmarks using Bookmark Manager (right click on ‘Other Bookmarks’ in the top right-hand corner). Create a logical system and then commit to using it! If you have a logical system that works for you AND you are strict with yourself about using it properly, you will always be able to find bookmarked websites quickly and easily. This will stop you keeping unnecessary tabs open and improve your productivity.
Step 5: Declutter Your Calendar
If you are still using a diary or paper calendar, make this the moment where you go finally digital! It takes a small amount of set up time, but once you are up and running, you’ll wonder why it took you so long to embrace the 21st century 😉 My recommendation is Google Calendar. It’s incredibly easy and intuitive to use and you can download the app onto all your devices – so no matter where you are, it’s quick and easy to add new appointments and reminders.
Delete everything off your calendar that doesn’t need to be there
If you are already using Google Calendar, start your declutter by going through all the entries and making sure there’s nothing there that shouldn’t be there – for example cancelled events, recurring events that have finished, duplicate entries…
Start using your calendar properly
Now commit to putting everything, and I mean EVERYTHING into your Google calendar. Every appointment, every meeting, every webinar you plan to attend, every commitment, everything you need to be reminded of. It takes discipline to start with, but after a very short amount of time it becomes second nature to add every new commitment straight onto the calendar app on your phone.
Use different calendars/colours for different activities
Did you know that Google Calendar will let you create and view multiple different calendars, each one colour-coded? This means you could set up one colour/calendar for work, one for home/leisure, one for your kids/pets appointments, one for birthdays/anniversaries and so on. Better still Google will allow you to turn each of these calendars on/off as you wish – so you can view all of them at the same time or toggle everything off but the one you are most interested in (especially useful if you are trying to find something specific!)
Synch your calendar with your spouse / partner / older kids etc.
If they are not already, get your spouse / partner / older kids etc. onto Google Calendar too, then synch your calendars so their appointments show on your calendar and vice versa. This makes making arrangements on the fly so much easier.
If I am out and about and I’m trying to arrange an appointment with a friend / the doctor/dentist / my personal trainer etc. I can just whip out my phone and be 100% sure about when I am available and when I am not. The new appointment goes straight into my phone and will instantly appear on my husband’s phone too. No more having to go home and check a paper calendar / check with my husband first and then remember to text that person back to confirm the arrangement!
READ MORE >>> 24 Google Calendar hacks to boost your productivity
Step 6: Declutter Your Email
Sort out your folders
Just as you did with your digital documents and photos, your first task is to create a well-organized, logical and simple folder system that you will stick to! Delete any folders you no longer need, reorganize those you are keeping and add in any new ones that will need to help you stay organized.
Delete and Unsubscribe
Next, go through your entire inbox, deleting anything you just do not need. Don’t be tempted to keep things in your inbox ‘just in case’… If you think you ‘might’ need it in the future, file it appropriately. One of the best ways to do this is to re-order your inbox by sender. This will help you speed through the deletion process! As you go, try to unsubscribe from as much as possible. Again, be ruthless – unless you really, really need those emails, unsubscribe. You can always re-subscribe again if you realise you’ve made a mistake!
File what can be filed
Now go back through your inbox and file everything that can be filed – in your lovely new email filing system. Filing is a great technique for worriers (like me!) who worry they ‘may’ need a certain email sometime in the future… Now with your bright shiny new filing system, you can file it away, safe in the knowledge it can easily be found again if you really do need it in the future.
Action what can be actioned
Now whizz through your inbox and action anything that can be actioned in 5 minutes or less.
Add appointments to your calendar
If anything in your inbox is an appointment – don’t leave it in your inbox as a reminder, put it on your Google Calendar!
Stop using email as your default to-do list
If anything needs an action which will take longer than 5 minutes, add it to your to do list. (See below for more on decluttering your to do list.)
Create new and better email habits
To ensure your inbox never needs decluttering again, commit to establishing new and better email habits. For example, only open your inbox once or twice a day… and when you do, deal with every new email fully: deleting / unsubscribing / filing / actioning / adding to your calendar/to do list as appropriate. Once you’ve dealt with all your emails, exit your inbox and don’t check back until your next scheduled inbox session.
Want very simple trick to massively reduce your inbox and keep it manageable? Email less often! If you only check your inbox / send emails once a day, you’ll only get a maximum of one email reply per day per email you send… if you check your email constantly and reply back to every person who emails you, you’ll get many more emails per day! This one nifty trick will free up loads of extra time per day to spend on the things that really move the dial in your business!
Step 7: Declutter Your Social Media
Use as few social media apps as possible
Start by reducing the number of social media apps you use to the bare minimum you can get away with. Personally, I have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn. The more you use, the more opportunities for distraction you will have!
Declutter your feeds
Unfollow, mute or unfriend people who you are no longer interested in hearing from or who cause you stress/upset. Unsubscribe from groups you’re no longer interested in too.
Bookmark specific pages (not the feed!)
How many times have you gone onto social media to do something for your blog and found yourself still mindlessly scrolling through your feed half an hour later? An awesome tip to avoid this temptation altogether is to use your Bookmark Bar and bookmark a different page, other than the feed – for example your Facebook page or Twitter profile. That way, when you pop onto social media to quickly post something, you won’t be so easily distracted!
Use the lists feature on Twitter and Facebook to create lists of accounts that you most want to follow. You can then head straight to your carefully curated list rather than being distracted by your main feed.
Eradicate your feed
Still finding the lure of your Facebook feed too tempting? Get rid of it completely by using the News Feed Eradicator plugin, which replaces your feed with an inspiring quote!
Turn off all social media notifications. It will make the world of difference to your productivity levels. You’ll still be able to see your social media notifications when you click into the app, but you’ll no longer be distracted by those tempting red circles!
Practice good social media habits
Just like with email, create some new and better social media habits. Pick a specific time each day to be your ‘social media time’. Go in, deal with your notifications, then get out and stay out until your next scheduled social media slot. It takes some discipline at the start, but this habit soon becomes normal and will free up so much time to focus on things which are much more important to you and to your business.
Step 8: Declutter Your Phone
Declutter your apps
Go through all your apps and delete any that a) you don’t use or b) you find especially distracting.
One app for each purpose
Don’t keep multiple apps on your phone that all serve the same purpose. For example, you don’t need 3 calendar apps, 4 different notes apps and 7 different weather apps! Pick one of each kind and delete the rest.
Organize your apps
Now organize the remaining apps to enhance your productivity. Put apps that you need to access regularly on the home screen and relegate apps you rarely use to the second or third page. Also, relegate any apps which you are often distracted by to the third page!
Turn off all non-essential notifications
Go through the notifications settings on your phone and turn off all but the absolute essentials. You should certainly be able to turn off all social media and email notifications! Notifications drain your phone’s battery and are incredibly distracting – resulting in lower levels of productivity and higher levels of stress.
Remove old photos/videos
Move your images (and videos) off your phone and into your well-organized photo filing system (see above). If you need access to your photos/videos on your phone, store them on a cloud storage service like Google Drive or OneDrive.
Declutter your contacts
Add your most frequent contacts to your ‘favourites’ to make it quicker to call them. Delete any contacts you no longer need.
Step 9: Declutter Passwords and Accounts
Create a password system
If you are like most people, you probably have a jumbly mish mash of passwords on various accounts… or worse, you may even have the same password for everything… You don’t need me to tell you that that’s a really bad idea from a security point of view!
It’s a really good idea to create a password system to help you generate strong passwords (which contain a mix of letters, numbers and symbols) which are easy for you to remember but hard for others to guess (or crack with password-hacking software!)
For example, you might take the first letter of the website name and think of a fruit that starts with that same letter. Use the first 3 letters of that fruit, then the first 3 letters of a country that starts with the last letter of that fruit, then a number that is the number of letters in that fruit’s name, followed by a symbol that you feel is closest to the shape of that fruit. Easy for you to remember, virtually impossible for someone else to crack!
Change passwords on your most sensitive accounts
If the idea of going through ALL your accounts changing the password to one which uses your new password system fills you with horror, at least change the password on your most sensitive accounts!
Move all passwords to a password manager service
Another option is to use a password manager service, such LastPass. You can use LastPass to help you set up very strong, completely random passwords for all your accounts… but then you don’t have to remember any of them, just your one LastPass password.
If you want an even simpler solution, you could set up Chrome so that it automatically remembers your passwords for you. Simply go to Settings >> Passwords and toggle on ‘Offer to save passwords’ and ‘Auto Sign-in’. (Needless to say, you must then be very careful to protect your main Google Chrome password and to log out of Chrome if you are using a shared device! And you will still need to ensure you have strong passwords for all your accounts as well as Chrome.)
And if you already have Chrome set up to do this, then it might be a good idea to head over to Settings >> Passwords and tidy things up!
You can usually also do a similar thing on your smartphone – setting it up so it remembers your passwords. But make sure you also have it set up so that the phone requires face or fingerprint id before it will autocomplete the password!
Delete accounts you don’t use
Chances are you probably also have tons of accounts for shops / services / apps etc. you no longer need – or even, you may have multiple accounts at the same store! Now would be a good time to go through these and delete any accounts you know you won’t be needing in the future.
If you use the password-saving feature in Chrome, this is very easy, just head to Settings >> Passwords and work through the list!
Use two-factor authentication
While you are working through the list of accounts and passwords, it might also be a good idea to set up two-factor authentication on your most sensitive accounts – just to be extra safe!
Step 10: Declutter Your Blog
Your blog is another place that can easily accrue clutter! Start by working through your draft posts and pages, deleting any that you don’t need and planning in any that you definitely want to finish into your content calendar.
Another option is to remove your drafts from WordPress completely, copying and pasting each one into a new Word / Google doc and filing them in your new, neat and tidy folder system under ‘Draft Posts’.
Now vow that you won’t write another new post until you have completed and published all those draft posts!
Usually, WordPress keeps every revision of every post you’ve ever made! You can use a plugin such as WP Rocket*, SG Optimizer* or WP Optimize to automatically delete these as well as perform other routine database clean-ups. This should also help to speed up your website.
Over time, it’s very easy to collect dozens of plugins which do everything from essential functionality to completely unnecessary nonsense (snow falling down the page plugin, I’m looking at you here!). Having a bunch of unnecessary plugins is not only undesirable digital clutter… it will also slow your website down and could pose a security threat… Worse still, having to update all those unnecessary plugin will be adding to your workload!
Delete all but the essential plugins and make sure that the ones you do keep are fast and secure. If you are not 100% sure what a plugin does, Google it! If you are still not sure, disable it for a while and see what happens – give it a week or two to be certain it doesn’t do anything vital, then if nothing breaks, delete it!
Just as with plugins, many bloggers have a whole bunch of unnecessary themes on their blogs. Again, this can pose both a security risk and potentially slow your website down, as well as all the updates adding to your workload.
Head to Appearance >> Themes to see what you have, then delete all but the actual themes you are currently using. (Remember to keep both the parent theme and the child theme, if you have a parent/child setup.) You will need to click on the theme first, which will then bring up the option to delete that theme in the bottom right-hand corner.
How’s your blog content calendar doing? If you don’t even have one yet, head over to my post on creating a content calendar for your blog and set one up pronto! It will make a huge difference to your productivity and help you plan and keep track of all your blog posts in one easy-to-read view.
If you already have a content calendar, now might be a good time to check that it is all neat and beautifully organized… if not, then tidy it up!
Over time you may have signed up for dozens of affiliate schemes… but how well are you keeping track of them? If you are in a bit of a mess with affiliates, now is the time to get organized. Being more organized with affiliate schemes will not only improve your productivity… it will also help you earn more money!
Simply create a tab on your content calendar called ‘affiliates’ and then log the name of each affiliate scheme, the URL of the main dashboard for each affiliate scheme and the main affiliate link for each scheme. Now whenever you write a new blog post, you will be able to quickly and easily locate your affiliate link and paste it into your blog post… saving a lot of time and effort!
(Wish someone would create a content calendar with affiliates tab for you? Grab mine >>> Blog Content Calendar)
Step 11: Declutter Your To Do List
Start with goals and sort into ‘projects’
If you are like most people, then your to do list is likely to be one long list of EVERYTHING: everything you need to do, everything you’d like to do, everything someone once mentioned you ought to do… This kind of list is not useful – it’s likely to cause stress and actually REDUCE your productivity.
Instead, start by focusing on your goals… What do you want to achieve with your blog? Then break your big goals down into projects… What will you need to do on your blog to achieve that goal?
For example, if your big goal is to ‘make more money’. Your projects might be ‘improve SEO’ (so you grow your blog to the traffic levels necessary to get into Mediavine or AdThrive.), ‘get better at affiliate marketing’, ‘create an online course’ and ‘get better at email marketing’ (so you can turn casual visitors into regular visitors and sell more affiliate products and courses!).
READ MORE >>> Goal setting for bloggers
Plan when you will do each ‘project’
Now assign each project to a month or two, so that every month has a focus. Perhaps you’ll focus on affiliate marketing from January to March, then SEO from April to June, then you’ll focus on creating your online course from July to September and then you’ll spend the rest of the year working on your email marketing.
(Want a ready-made plan? Grab my Profitable Blogging Roadmap)
Turn your projects into monthly, weekly and daily to do lists
The next step is to break down each project so you know what you will focus on each month, then break down your monthly plans into weekly to do list and then finally into daily to do lists. Each daily to do list should be short and achievable.
Of course, you don’t have to plan out the next 365 days all at once! Start by roughly planning each month. Next, focus just on this month and mark on your monthly plan which week you will do each task. Then look only at the tasks you have assigned to this week and decide which day you will do each task. Finally write your to do list out for tomorrow.
Using this system, you will only have to do a small amount of planning at the start of each month, then you’ll simply write up your daily to do lists each night for the following day.
READ MORE >>> Daily, weekly and monthly blogging to do lists
Cross off everything on your to do list that’s not serving your goals
Now go back to that great long list of ‘everything’ and cross off everything that is not serving the goals and projects you’ve set for yourself this year. Or, if it’s something that doesn’t fit your plans for this year, but which you would like to do in the future, dump it all in a file/spreadsheet tab marked NEXT YEAR and forget about it until then!
If there’s something on your old ‘everything’ to do list that you feel would help you achieve your goals for this year, add it onto your monthly plans in an appropriate place.
Want some help decluttering your digital life?
Sign up for my FREE 30 Day Digital Declutter Challenge and get 1 task per day emailed to your inbox. By next month you will be clutter free!
Over to you…
I’d love to hear your tips for doing a digital declutter! What would you add to my list?
Or maybe you’ve followed my advice and used this post to declutter your digital life. I’d love to hear how you got on!
Let me know in the comments below…
- 10 ways to stop wasting time and actually get stuff done!
- Goal setting for bloggers
- Daily, weekly and monthly blogging to do lists
- How to write an effective to do list
- How to sort out your overflowing inbox for good!
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*This blog post contains affiliate links, this means if you click on a link and go on to buy the product I recommend, I will get a small commission, but you will not be charged a penny more – thanks in advance!