21 Mar Spring Clean Your Digital Life With Our 9 Point Plan
Carrying out a declutter of your physical spaces isn’t the only way to make you feel a bit more zen as the seasons turn. Cleaning up your digital life is probably long overdue and is going to make you feel calmer, happier and a lot more productive. Here’s our nine step plan to de-bloat all things digital;
#1 Unsubscribe from emails
Email overload is real. The average office worker now gets between 9,000 and 15,000 work-related emails a year. And that number doesn’t take account of all the dozens of email lists we’re all subscribed to; mostly accidentally, as a result of failing to tick the ‘do not add me to mailing list’ box whenever we buy something online. Make a point of hitting ‘unsubscribe’ to anything that lands in your inbox this week that doesn’t spark joy in your digital life.
A service called Unroll Me could help here. It scans your inbox and reveals all the mailing lists you’re on, with the option to unsubscribe with a single click.
#2 Keep photos in the cloud
Photos use up a lot of space on a laptop or smartphone – so move them into the cloud. Apple users can use the iCloud Photos library and for Android users there’s Google Photos. Both work in a similar way, automatically synching and uploading the photos from your phone and desktop. It might cost a small fee to upgrade the free cloud storage you have to get enough space for all your snaps, but it’s well worth it.
#3 Defriend, un-follow and clean up your feeds
Reducing the number of accounts you follow on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter will give you just the stuff that matters on your feed, so you waste less time scrolling but still see what the people you care about are up to.
Next time you see a post that adds absolutely nothing, click the dropdown arrow at the top right and select ‘Hide post’. This not only removes that post from your feed immediately, it also tells Facebook’s algorithm you don’t want to see any more content like this in the future. You can also unfollow the friend who shared the post, or even block the original creator of a post that might have been shared by a friend, so that you no longer see posts and news from sources you don’t think are reliable.
You can also mute specific people on Twitter: click the dropdown arrow on any tweet, and you’ll see the option to ‘mute’. (In case you’re worried about causing offence, muted users don’t know they’ve been muted, the same applies those you unfollow on Facebook).
#4 Free up space in your gmail
You probably have a gmail account, and you’ve probably had it for a good few years now. Hidden in your folders are bound to be plenty of attachments with huge file sizes that you’ve been sent since opening the account. Open Gmail in a desktop browser, and click the down arrow at the right of the search bar. Check ‘has attachment’ and search to view all emails with attachments. Unfortunately, to remove an attachment from your inbox you have to delete the message that sent it, but there will be plenty that you’ll be able to do that to without missing them in the slightest.
#5 Clean up your desktop
If you’re viewing this on a computer, just shift a few open windows out the way and have a look at what your desktop looks like right now. Is it a hot mess of downloads, files, folders images and screenshots? Just like a tidy (physical) desk equals a tidy mind – so they say – a tidy desktop will make you feel much more in control when you log on every day. Clear up files and folders (see #8 below) and install a minimalist and calm desktop and screensaver to reinforce the zen vibe you’re going to be bringing to your digital life.
#6 Delete your downloads
If you’ve never cleaned up your Downloads folder – or it’s a while since you’ve ventured in there – it’s probably taking up a significant amount of storage on your computer. Check first for anything important and move it into a folder. Then delete the entire contents of the Downloads folder.
#7 Turn off notifications
Go through the notifications settings on every app you use (this will probably take a bit of time so do it in chunks) and ensure that you’re receiving only the really essential ones. You’ll find this will mostly mean saying goodbye to your social media notifications. All these notifications are doing are disrupting your thought processes and making you a lot less productive and focused. Getting rid of them will help you concentrate on the task at hand.
#8 Sort out your files and folders
The digital equivalent of cleaning out the bathroom cabinet or tidying out your sock draw, this is a regular step you really can’t skip if you don’t want to become simply overwhelmed by digital clutter. Have a look at what folders you already have and create new ones for files that don’t seem to belong anywhere at the moment – these may be the ones clogging up your desktop. Re-visit your folder system regularly to make sure the naming and hierarchy still works for you.
#9 Cull any connected apps
Review which Facebook or Twitter apps you may have installed. Open Facebook on your desktop browser and select Account –> Setting & Privacy –> Apps and Websites. You’ll now see all your connected apps; click ‘remove’ next to an app’s name to remove it from your Facebook profile. Tweeters can similarly check which apps are connected to their Twitter account: open the Twitter timeline in a desktop browser, click your account icon in the top right, select Settings –> Security and Account Access —> Apps and sessions –> Connected Apps in the left-hand column, then select each app and ‘revoke app permissions’ if you choose.
Go slowly through all these steps so you don’t get too overwhelmed. Set yourself a timer to limit the time you spend and start by restricting yourself to one or two a day – you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how quickly you get through them all and you’ll quickly start to notice a difference.
For more about how to clean up your digital life and deal with any bad digital habits – pick up a copy of our new book: My Brain Has Too Many Tabs Open. Available to order here.