I love a good process. If something is feeling like chaos, I enjoy the task of unpicking it and making it run like clockwork. Something I’d never really considered before is the way that digital clutter is sometimes more overwhelming to tackle than physical clutter.
Here are some typical areas of digital clutter you and your business might have accumulated and what you can do to systemise it going forward. I need to warn you, this will take time to sort but don’t punish your future self any longer.
Your email inbox
This is actually one of the most straightforward areas to tidy as the only person who needs to understand and use the system is you. However, you need to make sure you set up a folder system that is easy to utilise. Start simple with 3-4 folders which neatly categorises your world e.g. finance, team/ recruitment, practice compliance and training. You can always add sub folders later, I recommend reviewing and deleting folders regularly to ensure your inbox best reflects your current world view. If you need to keep folders for a period of time so you can retrospectively look back at a project you could have a ‘Z’ file at the bottom of your inbox to house these sorts of folders – review regularly to ensure it doesn’t become a dumping ground.
Utilise the unsubscribe button for those sales emails that don’t serve a purpose. How many times have you entered your email address on a site to make a purchase then ended up with daily discounts spamming your inbox? Unsubscribe and stop the clutter building up.
Make your inbox your to do list. By this I mean only have live tasks in your inbox and anything that has been actioned should be filed or deleted. If your inbox is a mess, you won’t regret spending a day sorting it out so you can see clearly what projects you have in progress.
Nothing gives me the hebe jebes more than when someone screen shares on Zoom and you get an insight into their chaotic desktop – filled with random files that need to be saved yesterday. This isn’t about having a folder labeled ‘to save’ either as that sweeps your problem under a digital rug.
I have a rule that the only things on my desktop are things that are in progress that no one needs access to. If I am away for any length of time I make sure that I save everything in a folder on Google Drive so I know my team can access it. Using cloud based filing systems is a must for any business so make sure you put your items directly in there and keep the desktop clear.
Digital filing system
On that note, there is no point having one giant folder with everything hiding in it. And what is logical to one person may not be so logical to another. If you need a map to outline where to save things, you’re eventually going to be in a muddle with team members not knowing where things go.
My suggestion is using top level departments in your organisation, followed by the category it relates to and then into individual projects. For example – Sales > Reports > August 2023
Arguably, technology is the best and worst thing to have happened to humans right!? We have the world at our fingertips but then we also have the world at our fingertips!
Our phones are constantly evolving to help us live more efficiently but can also be a huge distraction when it comes to getting important things done. My advice is to utilise apps that close off social media notifications for certain time periods and tell you when you’ve reached a daily limit you’ve set so you become more mindful of the clutter you’re often wasting time on (yes, I did just call social media clutter!)
Clear the Apps you don’t use and create folders on your phone so you can easily access the apps you need and don’t waste time scrolling through. Some people even colour code their phone apps – I don’t think you need to do this unless it brings you joy to see them organised this way.
You won’t regret the time you spend organising your digital world. It’s such an easy area to overlook but is the space we spend a lot (if not the majority) of time in – so keep it tidy and see how much less stressed you feel when you open your device.