All the "stuff" | Productivity
11 May 2021
Overwhelmed by all the tech in your life? Our handy digital declutter checklist will help you organize your digital life in just 15 simple steps.
How do you know when it’s time to declutter your digital life?
Is it when the thought of opening your inbox fills you with dread? Is it when you can’t find the documents you need because your files are heaped up on your desktop? Or is it when you realize you’ve spent the best part of a morning doing admin instead of your actual job?
We get it. You have information coming at you from every direction. Tweets, likes, photos. Contracts, reports, receipts and expenses. Critical emails and not-so-critical newsletters.
Yeah, it’s a lot. As overwhelming as this can be, it can be equally stressful trying to figure out how to get out of this mess.
But not to worry. Our simple 15-step digital declutter checklist offers a solid starting point that will help you organize your digital life (and keep it that way). Read on to find out more:
What is digital decluttering?
First things first, what exactly is a digital declutter, and why would you do one?
Digital decluttering is the process of removing unnecessary technology and reorganizing your top-priority content to become more organized and productive. Technology can include our phone, social media, computer, our personal and work emails and more.
The need for a digital declutter is not new: since the widespread adoption of the smartphone, the digital world has been where we spend a significant portion of our lives. When “clutter” builds up, feelings of stress and disorganization increase along with it.
It may help to imagine your digital life like a physical office; your desk is piled high with papers in random stacks. Files spill out of boxes. Mail arrives and sits unopened for weeks.
Walking into this office, you’d immediately question how any work gets done in such a chaotic space. So why treat your digital workspace any differently?
Diving into this tech cleanse may seem intimidating, but it’s well worth it. Even the simplest digital declutter provides benefits:
- Lower your stress: Digital clutter, like its physical counterpart, increases your anxiety. Too many notifications, a stack of unread emails, and chaos in your document folder can all take a toll. When you have the systems in place to avoid these common stressors, you can use your energy to focus on the things that really matter.
- Reclaim your attention: Your attention is finite (and highly valuable). When you’re living in digital clutter, you are needlessly giving energy and attention to managing that mess. When you organize your digital life, you free up your attention for other, more meaningful tasks.
- Be more productive: When you can quickly find what you’re looking for, you can get more done. It’s that simple.
Digital Declutter Checklist
Ready to begin? We’re going to walk you through 15 steps across several key technologies to kickstart your digital declutter.
And please note: some of these suggestions take time. You shouldn’t expect yourself to complete all these items in one sitting. Some are best saved for plane rides, long car trips and other “dead time” like waiting at the doctor’s office.
Add the items that require more downtime to a note on your phone or calendar, and get to them when you can.
1. Go through all your apps and delete any that are no longer valuable to you. Bonus points if you cancel costly subscription-based apps, like unused streaming services or old fitness apps. These add up!
Note: In some cases, deleting the app doesn’t mean nixing it from your life, just removing it from a place where you always have it on hand. This allows you to use your apps (like social media) with more intention, because you have to seek them out versus scrolling mindlessly.
2. Remove old images. Create folders for the images you keep to easily find them. If you want media off your phone but still want access, upload your images and videos to a cloud storage service like Google Drive or Dropbox.
3. Delete contacts you no longer need. Add your most frequent contacts to your Favorites for quicker calling.
4. Disable notifications. Keep only the notifications you truly want or need. You can also Disable or Snooze notifications for times when you want to avoid distractions.
5. Declutter your feeds. Unfollow or block people who you don’t regularly follow or who cause you stress. Unsubscribe from groups you’re no longer interested in. Opt out of ads that aren’t relevant as they come up.
6. Remove old images. Especially those that no longer bring you joy.
7. Unsubscribe to newsletters you no longer read. Similarly, unsubscribe when new newsletters appear that you know you won’t read. This article offers several options to unsubscribe from unwanted emails.
8. Create inbox folders (or tags). This can help you stay on top of your emails and get to the coveted Inbox Zero. For more details, see this guide on getting to Inbox Zero.
9. Delete unused email addresses. We’re looking at you, email@example.com.
10. Set up a filing system for your computer documents. Create your broad categories along with subfolders on your desktop. Do the same for your cloud documents, like in Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive or Dropbox. Don’t file unused documents – you’ll thank us in the next step.
Tip: If you use Google Drive, simply download Charli and let it do the filing for you. Charli is an AI assistant that will “read” your documents to understand what they’re all about, set up a filing system, and file everything in its proper place. Done and done.
11. Delete unused desktop and cloud files. This will be easier after completing the previous step, because you’ll see all unnecessary documents haven’t been filed. Once deleted, empty your recycle bin. What a feeling!
12. Close down the tabs you no longer need. These tab management Chrome extensions are a great place to get started.
13. Delete old bookmarks in your browser. Organize your bookmarks into folders and subfolders for easy navigation.
Psst: Charli does this too – use the same method to organize your bookmarks.
14. Install an ad blocker to minimize distractions online. Here are some good ones.
15. Organize your notes. You may have notes across your desktop, your cloud storage service, your phone, or even sticky notes. Consider migrating all your notes into an easy-to-access place: one for work, and one for personal.
If you’ve gone through this checklist and done most of the items, congratulations! You have officially decluttered your digital life and are hopefully feeling a bit more peace of mind. The productivity and mental calm you’ll earn back will be well worth the effort.
One final tip: Digital declutters work best when done regularly. Consider setting a regular declutter schedule to repeat this process. New apps get downloaded, email subscriptions find their way back in. Scheduling a monthly or quarterly digital declutter can keep your digital life tidy, and will save you time and mental energy in the long run.
And with that, kick back, relax and enjoy your freshly organized digital space!