Increase Productivity By Cleaning Up Digital Clutter

digital hoarding

I took an inventory of my computer. Right now, I have 22 browser tabs spread across two windows, 12 unsaved Word documents cascading across my desktop and over 1000 unread emails flooding my inbox. My desktop is covered with documents and photo files and the last time I backed everything up was…. well, that might have been a different computer now that I think about it.

What I’m saying is, the camera crew will be here tomorrow to film a special digital episode of Hoarders.

Digital clutter slows the writing process. Not only is time wasted digging around for the right file, the chaotic piles of bits and bytes lead to disorganized thoughts. Give your freelance writing process a productivity boast by spruce up your digital workspace.

Be Ruthless About Email

How many times have you searched your inbox for an important message from a client only to get tangled up in advertisements for hair replacement products and shoe sales? Rather than treating your inbox as storage, use it as a to-do list holding only the items that need action or a response. Start by unsubscribing from spam emails and deleting them. Then, set up an email filing system, by creating labels or folders for various topics, for storing messages you are likely to need later. Commit to dealing with email three times a day, in the morning, midday and evening. Respond to messages immediately and delete them, or mark them for the appropriate folder if you are absolutely, truthfully sure you will need them later. Suddenly, your bloated inbox is nearly blank.

Stream instead of downloading

The right tunes are a must for getting the creative juices flowing, but music libraries are wastelands of forgotten playlists and broken MP3 files. Instead of downloading music, use a streaming service like Pandora or Spotify. Not only will you find your favorites without hunting, you can test drive new sounds without purchasing. Since music files usually represent real-world dollars spent, it’s tough to hit the delete button. But, if you’ve finally fallen out of love with that old Britney Spears album, it’s ok to purge it.

Create a Document Filing System

You’d never just toss random stacks of paper into a filing cabinet. Instead, you have a meticulous system of color-coded folders and neatly written labels. But, your computer’s documents section has blog posts, income spreadsheets and meal plans all mingling together. Set up a filing system for sorting and storing your must-have documents. What you label the folders is entirely up to you, but “New Folder” isn’t the right answer. Just make sure personal documents, photos, completed and in-progress writing projects all have a home. Chances are you’re dragging around 50 HVAC articles, most of which you will never peep at again, so don’t be afraid to click delete.

Uninstall Forgotten Programs

If that photo editing software that you never learned to use and the video game that just didn’t hit the spot are still lingering on your hard drive, it’s time to uninstall. Deleting the icon from your desktop does reduce the visual clutter, but it’s just gone and not forgotten. Getting rid of the icon doesn’t actually delete the program or free up the space. Head over to your Control Panel and select the “Uninstall” option to delete it for good.

Michelle S is a self-confessed digital hoarder with a hard drive full of unnamed travel photos and half-written blog posts. Her email is basically a pile of shoe and cosmetic store sales ads, but she needs those.


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