My brain has too many tabs open!
Lest you mistake me for some kind of magical decluttering unicorn, I feel it necessary to expose the ugly truth about my digital life.
I am an digital, media and information addict. I took stock last month and I had folders full of the beginnings of blog posts. My Evernote was overflowing clippings. I was working between my Google calendar + my hardcopy calendars + my day planner – let’s just say they were not synced. (Sorry if I missed our brunch or if you copped an eyeful of my unshaven ankles!)
I had three and a half overwhelming inboxes (don’t ask) and about 20-35 (I didn’t count) tabs open across several web browsers. My desktop was intense and I got a little carried away and downloaded about 15 unnecessary apps on my iPhone last month – damn you Apple App Store you sexy timesuck and promiser of productive tools!
I’m not proud of it, but this is my life and yeah it’s been a little overwhelming! I share this all with you because I know for a fact that most of you experience the same thing. It’s called being a business owner in the 21st Century.
The new human condition
When you’re running a business just about everything feels like a priority. You need to keep existing clients happy while prospecting for new clients. You have to come up with fresh content for your blog, your website needs updating, your social media channels are lacklustre and you haven’t engaged in meaningful ways with anyone.
Maybe you’re like me and sometimes you want to give it all up. But the technology and the information is not the enemy. These are beautiful, powerful tools designed to make our lives easier, better. Our problem is a lack of discipline and systems. We have to learn to live in the digital space with intention and purpose.
Today, I’m not speaking to you as your guru or digital spirit guide in this subject. I’m speaking as one for whom #thestruggleisreal. One who is still trying to hack the tension between productivity and distraction-free digital engagement.
How digital clutter affects our brains,
So it’s time to get honest about our digital lives. Are you living with digital clutter that is slowly stripping you of any semblance of sanity that you have?
A study by the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute into the impact of physical clutter shows that our ability to focus is restricted when our spaces are cluttered. Clutter is not only distracting, but it makes it difficult to assimilate information.*
Being distractible is a trait of creative personality types, but being constantly distracted is exhausting and devastating to productivity.
Digital clutter is even more pervasive than physical clutter, we are almost blind to it, until we get stuck in a wormhole of files or blogposts or social media for several hours. Your computer, your phone, your devices are your workstations, and these need as much attention as your physical environment.
The Princeton research shows that you will be less irritable, more productive, distracted less often, and able to process information better when your spaces are uncluttered and organized.
The places we hoard digital clutter
There are FOUR key areas of our digital lives that tend to become hoarders’ dens.
Your personal computer – Of course. The desktop is covered with docs, downloads, photos, screen grabs and the icons of all your fave programs. Your folder hierarchies make no sense – or you’re like folder hierarchies??!! LOL!!! [insert cryface]
Do I need to bring up your email inbox? I knew a woman who had 10,000+ emails in her inbox. Just… No. That makes my fingernails hurt. I can’t.
Social Media – I get it. You’re grinding, building your business and you need to get your brand out there. But maybe you were a little zealous with the volume of social channels you signed up to and then did nothing with? Also are you following TOO MANY people but connecting with no one?
Phone – Arguably the greatest tool for productivity and procrastination in our lives. Our phones have become an extension of ourselves. It makes sense that the chaos of our minds finds greatest expression in our most intimate device.
Subscriptions – Subscription based services have become a core part in this brave new world. From digital storage to entertainment, from business networks to education and training – we’re all racking up subscriptions like they’re striped casual T-shirts. It’s easy for these $5/$10/$20/$40 per month subscriptions to tick away in the background without our even noticing it.
Taking stock of your subscriptions and making decisions as to whether you really need them is a great way to make space and save some money too.
How to start you digital declutter
Before you tackle the clutter. Make one promise to yourself… I WILL LET GO OF THIS SUPERFLUOUS CRAP!
Now you have a big life, I get that. The Atomic Bomb Strategy of a digital purge would be amazing – few days of intense deleting, prioritising, organising and TA DA! If you don’t have that kind of time, you may want to work with a One Bite At a Time Strategy.
Whichever way you do it, the key is to commit to continuous improvement. You can tidy as you go, and/ or schedule the labour into a 1 or 2 hour project every month.
I created my Monthly Digital Declutter printable to stay top of the clutter and stay accountable to myself.
Decluttering projects get you started:
- Your documents
- Delete old or unnecessary documents
- Refresh your document folder system and sort docs accordingly
- Archive anything that you don’t need on hand
- Remove as many icons from your desktop as possible. I have two folders on there, one called Reference and one called To read. Be ruthless.
- Close all the browser tabs
- Empty your trash can
- Tame your inbox
- Action, sort, delete emails in your inbox. Aim for Inbox Zero at the end of every week or month.
- Cull unhelpful email subscriptions
- Social media
- Uninstall unused software, apps
- If you have updates pending, update them already
- Update photo folders
- Delete unusable photos
- Delete unusable and backed up photos
- Delete unused Apps
- Switch off all notifications
- Close all the browser tabs
- Take inventory of your paid subscriptions
- Unsubscribe to anything that you don’t use
- Digital goal setting
- Set 3 or 4 digital goals to curb or bring awareness to your digital consumption.
- One of my weekly goals is to reset to zero – email, web browsers, smart phone web browsers, desktop. I want to treat it like a meditation to finish every week.
I created my Digital Declutter printable to stay on top of my own digital madness. If you want to join me in taming your clutter, sign up, download it for free – and let me know how you go!
* The Journal of Neuroscience (January 2011)
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