When was the last time you cleaned your computer?
No, no. Not the screen or the keyboard, but the actual files on your computer. You wouldn’t think computers need to be cleaned like kitchens and bathrooms, but they do!
Today’s world is technology driven. We use it to communicate, connect, store data, and of course for entertainment. While there is nothing in the world that can entirely take the place of pen-to-paper planning, at least for me, I’ve learned that I need to give my digital organization as much love and care as I’d give to setting up my planner or organizing my pantry.
You can watch my tips on how to organize your digital life, just by clicking on the image below.
If you love this and want even more organizing goodness, you’ll want to check out this technology organization guide that dives deeper with even more ideas.
But for starters, here are seven digital organization tips you can start implementing today!
Digital Organization Tip #1: Declutter
“It’s not taking up space so therefore it’s not clutter.”
Heard that line before? I’ve used that justification for keeping old files more times than I’d care to admit. But how can digital files be clutter? Just think about the last time you scrolled through your camera roll trying to pick a pic to print or post. Scrolling and scrolling is a chore. When you cull down the options to just the ones you love it’s so much easier to find the perfect photo. The same goes for any type of digital file, from Word documents to podcasts to apps. The fewer you have, the easier they are to maintain and organize.
Faced with a mountain of files already? Don’t try to remove everything from your computer that you don’t need today. You can always go back and do that later. Start being judicious about the files you allow to stay on your devices – the rest you can worry about later if need be.
Digital Organization Tip #2: Keep a Clean Desktop
Ever saved something to your desktop “just for now.” As tempting as that is, you look at your desktop all the time, and too many old files stuck here and there is setting you up for stress and confusion. A great way to corral the clutter is to use the Sweet Life Society desktop wallpaper that’s released with each themed monthly pack.
You’ll be set up for success with a designated place for files and working folders off to one side and a calendar on the other. Plus, they’re super cute! Oh! And each month as you switch out your desktop wallpaper, be sure to do a quick check of the files to ensure their timeliness.
Digital Organization Tip #3: Set Up Your System and Stick to It!
Set up your system and start using it now going forward. Wait! I hear you saying, “You want me to pick a system and start using it without fixing the backlog?” While digital clutter certainly is clutter, it won’t impact your systems going forward the way that leaving a sink full of dirty dishes will ruin your newly cleaned kitchen. Trying to go back and organize years worth of files will have you discouraged and burnt out before you get an ounce of benefit out of your efforts. Pick a system, start using it effective immediately, and you will see a difference quickly!
Once you’ve given your new system a trial run you can start to slowly go back and incorporate your most referenced files and folders into your system. But please don’t skip the trial run! There’s always a chance the system doesn’t work well for you and you’ll need to tweak it. If you’re going to spend some time re-organizing your files, you’ll want to make sure it’s the best set up for you.
Digital Organization Tip #4: Don’t Save or Digitize Everything
This is pre-emptive decluttering – or, in other words, decluttering before the clutter accumulates. Don’t hang on to things you don’t need. Will you need that grocery receipt for milk, applesauce, and pasta sauce three years from now?
If you won’t need it, just go ahead and recycle or shred it without scanning it. I have to admit I’ve been little “scanner-happy” in the past and scanned items just because I can. But that only causes more confusion and disorder down the road. Only scan documents you will actually reference in the future.
Digital Organization Tip #5: Don’t be Afraid to Delete
The delete key is your friend. Use it. Use it a lot. It is there for a reason after all! Don’t just move things around or stick files in an out of the way folder – delete what you don’t need. Emails are a sneaky culprit. I only save emails if I think I will really need them and I can’t find the information elsewhere. I also like to do what I call a “daily delete.” I take one or two minutes at the end of my day and delete any photos from my phone that I don’t need. There’s really no reason to keep 12 shots of my five year old looking cute wearing her new sunglasses. One is sufficient, even though they’re all adorable!
Being a little timid to use the delete button is completely understandable. What if you need it later?! If you’re unsure of whether to delete something, go ahead and keep it in a folder for pending items. Revisit the files again after a couple months and take note of the files you use and those you don’t. Were you excited to find that file in a time of need or was it just taking up space on your hard drive? If you’d forgotten it was even there, you know what to do!
Digital Organization Tip #6: Categorizing by Date
Deciding how to organize digital files is a struggle because there are so many options, especially when it comes to photos. When organizing by category, it can get a bit tricky. What if you celebrate someone’s birthday while on vacation? Would that go in birthdays or vacations? When in doubt, organize files by date. Dates are completely unambiguous and will eliminate the confusion that comes with sorting by category.
Digital Organization Tip #7: Careful with Tags
Finding files is the ultimate goal of organizing your digital life. You want to be able to find what you need when you need it. There is so much software that gives you the ability to tag your content to make it easier to find, but be careful not to over-tag. It’s tempting to add several tags to better organize yourself, but it can quickly become overwhelming. You’ll need to keep track of the exact wording of all your different tags – did you tag that file as receipt or receipts? Since it’s easy to get mixed up with your tags, go for more broad terms when naming your tags. Additionally, instead of leaning too hard on your own tagging system, utilize the strong search functions available in programs like email or Evernote.
There’s a lot to keep track of in the digital world, and maybe digital organization is totally new to you.I know it’s a learning curve at first, but follow these tips and you’ll find that it’s easier to manage your virtual self than you ever thought possible!