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Improving Your Productivity: How To Deal With Digital Clutter

Updated on May 16, 2014

If you’re a digital hoarder, like me, then you may find yourself becoming overwhelmed from time to time with the amount of documents you have cluttering up your pc (or smartphone, or laptop, or tablet for that matter!)

According to Trend Micro, 52% of users claim that the items on their computer are irreplaceable, but they typically only use about 20% of what they save. Are you one of those 52%?

I think I probably might be. I have a work laptop that is absolutely full to the brim with files – I’m surprised it isn’t throbbing and pulsating like an overstuffed suitcase!

But I won’t have a clean out. No sir! I flatly refuse to get rid of anything that I deem to be of potential use – even if it’s something that I haven’t even laid eyes on in over six months. That’s what archiving is for – and doesn’t it feel good!

But, alas, sometimes we forget to archive. Sometimes we forget to file correctly too. Maybe we even save an image without creating an appropriate title every once in a while, so that we have no choice but to browse endless thumbnails when a need for that image arises.

Or maybe that’s just me. Either way – here are some tips to de-clutter your virtual space, and keep track of the things that you just can’t delete.


Discover The Joys Of Archiving. Be Ruthless!

Ok, I suppose the overlaying message here is ‘do as I say, not as I do’. I’m nowhere near as ruthless as I should be when it comes to organizing my laptop (either my personal one or the one I use at work), and this which is why I often struggle to find the things that I need, when I need them.

This is why the first step of de-cluttering your digital workspace is to be ruthless! Don't be afraid to hit delete where necessary, and don't be afraid to take that final, ultimate step and empty the recycle bin.

However, by being ruthless I don’t mean you have to delete anything and everything that’s over two weeks old. Just be honest with yourself. If there are files on your hard drive gathering dust, just get rid of them.

But if the thought of getting rid of your precious digital treasures is just too much to bear - work the act of archiving rigorously into your routine. You could use an external storage device to do this, or alternatively use cloud storage (I use Google docs).

It is important to set yourself a rule and stick to it. Anything that is older than one month, and that you don’t currently use, gets archived. It’s simple, I know. So simple that most of us often forget to do it, but trust me it is definitely the first crucial step to removing .

Invest In An External Storage Device

If you’re worried about clogging up valuable space on your pc or laptop, and you aren't comfortable about saving your precious files in the mysterious and ethereal 'Cloud', then it's a good idea to invest in an external storage solution. There are, of course, virtual storage solutions out there too – but if you’re like me then you might want to have something tangible to hang on to.

Remember – archiving is a way of preserving – so you want the device you choose to be robust and reliable. I would choose a USB hard disk, as you tend to find these have the lowest cost per GB, and tend to have a high storage capacity when compared to, say, optical disks. However, there are plenty of other affordable, good value storage devices on the market - such as tapes, and memory cards - so do a little research and shop around until you find what you feel is right for you.


Which Storage Method Do You Prefer?

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If You Own It, Possess It

In today's world it's easy to become bogged down with digital clutter. That's why I have a motto: if you own something, make sure you possess it. By this I mean burning CDs, printing photos and sticking them in an album, and ripping DVDs. Make it tangible. If it’s tangible - if you can touch it – then it exists here in the physical world.

You possess it, so you don’t have to keep it on your device. You can always archive it, if you have real trouble letting go, but moving your possessions from the digital world into the physical will not only feel good (like you've somehow gained something) but also highlight to you just how much clutter you actually have.

Have an album that you never really listen to (or perhaps don’t even really like) then would you burn it onto a CD? No? Then delete it! This exercise clearly helps with the first tip – be ruthless. If you don't want to own it in the physical, then it isn't worth keeping in the digital. Get rid, and move on.


Take Time To File Things Properly

Upon first consideration this seems like a no-brainer, but sometimes it’s the simple things that make all the difference. In order to de-clutter your virtual life make sure you set up a logical filing system moving forward. This goes for everything - from music files to photos to films to important documents - never ever save a file without naming it first!

It is important to categorize your files and folders in a way that works for you – but the key thing to remember here is to stick to the system.

When I'm at work, on my works computer, I have a particular filing system that really works for me. I have folders according to topic (campaigns, admin, PDP, planners, visuals, other) and various sub-folders within these. The way I file within these is according to date, but I do it backwards: YYMMDD

This way, all of the files get saved in order of creation. I also make sure to use key words within certain files (especially ones that I know I will be creating similar ones to) so it makes using the search function much easier.

Again, like much of the other points raised in this article, this seems like a no-brainer, but it is definitely something worth implementing if you want to increase your personal productivity and leave yourself more time to get those important things done.


De-Clutter Your Digital Space Today

The best advice I can give is to try these techniques today. As you will have learned from this article, these ideas are quick to execute and easy to do - and will ultimately aid you in making your virtual space that little bit easier to navigate.

For other useful tips of dealing with digital clutter, I suggest you check out Pinterest!This might seem like a strange suggestion, as this is a site that is completely image-based, but you’d be surprised what comes up when you search for ‘how to de-clutter’ or 'digital storage ideas', or similar. There are tonnes of infographics leading to interesting and informative sites and articles to assist you in taking the steps toward streamlining your digital environment, and ultimately leave yourself more time to get your most important tasks done.


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    • tsmog profile image

      Tim Mitchell 3 years ago from Escondido, CA

      Well written about an important topic. I agree to create a system or organization is ultimate. How you have shared the workings for organizing PC's, Lap Tops, Tablets, and even smart phones is spot on. I learned enough to inspire me to do some organizing . . . :)


    • AuniceReed profile image

      Aunice Yvonne Reed 3 years ago from Southern California

      Oh wow. Great hub. Challenges me a lot. This reminds me, I must begin to get better organized. I've accumulated a lot of stuff on my computer, and as a writer it is sooo easy to do! Thanks!