This opinion piece by Kevin Collins, CEO, Charli AI was originally published in Techcouver on February 2, 2021

If there’s an opportunity to create content, there’s an opportunity to collect clutter. And nowhere is more prone to clutter than the virtual workspace. We’re all content creators in some respect whether we realize it or not, we store ideas in our notes app, add to-do’s to a task list, keep a running tab(s) of websites to check out later, and have files scattered across our local drives, inbox, and cloud apps. If our physical workspaces were this chaotic, you’d immediately question how anyone got any work done. So why treat your digital workspace any differently?

On average, we spend 19% of our time simply looking for information, and another 14% chasing down colleagues for content as well. Imagine how much more efficient we could be with a more streamlined system in place.

Enter the act of digital decluttering. Here’s why Canada’s remote workforce needs to consider Marie Kondo-ing their digital workspaces.

What is digital decluttering?

We’ve all become extremely reliant on technology to work effectively from home. But, an excess of mobile apps and computer software that promise to improve our productivity can do just the opposite – leaving an already overburdened workforce with heightened feelings of anxiety, stress, and worse, burnout, as the work continues to pile on.

In our 2021 State of Productivity Report, we found that 3 in 10 professionals only get 30 minutes of focused work time per day. Further to that, 3 in 5 professionals are working on 3-5 tasks simultaneously. With limited time for focused work, and distractions everywhere, how on earth are we supposed to get any meaningful work done?

The first step in digital decluttering is to acknowledge that we spend a great deal of our time engaging in the digital world; it’s inevitable. Once we recognize this behaviour, we can then move on to put systems and processes in place that serve our productivity, make our lives easier, and save us time. This is why we launched Charli.

Charli AI exists to help professionals organize their digital workspaces, so they can easily locate the content they’re looking for, and have more time to get high-value work done. Unlike other tools, Charli is designed to learn about you and your content, not the other way around.

The benefits of decluttering your digital workspace

2020 was a year full of challenges. But, in light of renewed optimism at the start of a fresh year and with ‘spring cleaning’ just around the corner, there couldn’t be a better time to tackle the digital clutter you’ve accumulated over the years. Here are some of the benefits of decluttering your digital workspace.

It can help reduce stress. Just like its physical counterpart, digital clutter – notifications, unread emails, disorganized folders, and more – increases anxiety and can take a toll on your mental clarity and headspace. By establishing systems to combat these common stressors, you can use your energy to focus on the things that really matter most.

It can help you reclaim your attention. Managing digital clutter requires your attention and energy – and both of these are finite. By decluttering your digital life, you’re freeing up your mental capacity to take on other, more meaningful tasks.

It can help you be more productive. When you’re able to find exactly what you’re looking for, it turns out, you can get more done and procrastinate less. More importantly, you’ll regain the time you need to get more high-value work done.

Getting started is easier than you think

We recently invited our community to join us in a  digital declutter challenge, walking them through easy-to-get-done tasks to get started. You might be surprised at how much simpler of an undertaking a digital declutter can be if you follow these steps.

Sort through your inbox and unsubscribe from any email lists you don’t actually read. Simply leaving these emails unread and deleting them is giving you a false sense of decluttering. Hit the ‘unsubscribe’ button and remove them from your inbox, once and for all.

Clear your desktop of files, tidy up your Downloads folder, and empty out your Recycle Bin. Also revisit your desktop apps and software platforms and decide if they’re really adding value to your digital life. If not, take the plunge – uninstall anything that isn’t working for you.

Make your notifications work for you. Be ruthless. Consider all of your digital devices and the distracting ‘pings’ and ‘dings’ that steal your attention throughout the day. For the notifications you absolutely can’t turn off (like work emails or Slack messages), consider using the ‘do not disturb’ or ‘snooze’ functions for a bit more notification-free, focused time in your day.

Take control of your tabs. 14% of Canadian professionals have only one tab open at any one time, while 78% have many more. How many do you have open right now? In case you missed it, I recently wrote a piece on why multitasking is killing your productivity and why, based on the data, we really should stop doing it.

In this day and age, Canada’s working professionals won’t be able to avoid technology altogether. However, they can certainly curate, organize, and automate their digital workspaces to minimize distractions and boost their productivity.

Kevin Collins is the CEO of Charli, a first-of-its-kind conversational AI-driven productivity manager, available on any browser, that’s designed to automate admin work and help workplace professionals put more life into their work-life balance.