Clutter can negatively impact your ability to focus and get things done. Research from the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute found that multiple stimuli present in the visual field at the same time stifle your ability to focus.
Digital clutter in your visual field can be distracting, too, like having hundreds of files on your desktop. Digital clutter will serve the hardest impact when need a file you can’t find because you put it in a generic folder and don’t remember the filename.
Although Rocko and the residents of O-Town might disagree, the spirit of “Spring Cleaning” isn’t just for Spring. You can launch a cleaning spree any day of the year, including today. For faster peace of mind, start with these three digital cleaning sprees:
1. Clean up files on your computer or other devices
How many years has it been since you deleted old downloads you never use? Duplicate photos? Test videos you never plan on uploading to YouTube? Installer files? A hard drive’s capacity should never exceed 85%, or it will cause slow performance. By not deleting unnecessary files, you’re using up valuable hard drive space that will cause multiple problems at some point. The smaller your hard drive, the bigger the problem will be.
Apps will become slow to respond
The first problem you’ll notice is a slow computer. A slow computer isn’t conducive to peace of mind when you have deadlines to meet and your applications are responding at a snail’s pace.
Hard drive space will disappear
If you’re a Mac user, you’ll eventually get the dreaded message, “your startup disk is full.” That means it’s time to clean up your files. The fastest way to get started is by using CleanMyMac. You’ll be happy to know MacPaw just released the new CleanMyMac X, which extends functionality into the realm of system security, improved app management, and optimization. Head over to this tutorial to learn why your startup disk might be full, and ways to free it up.
2. Clean out your email inbox and all folders/labels
It doesn’t take long to collect a massive pile of emails. If you don’t have a regular habit of cleaning out your inbox by the end of the day, after a few months, you’ll probably have hundreds, if not thousands of emails.
The first thing you need to do is attack your email account full force. Unsubscribe from as many newsletters as you possibly can to stop adding to the mess. If you can’t figure out how to unsubscribe, create a filter to send them to the trash and report them as spam to get them to stop. It’s actually illegal for a newsletter to be sent without an unsubscribe link. Next, perform searches for emails from senders you know can be deleted in bulk. You don’t need to keep those daily digests from that Yahoo group you don’t even participate in.
Next, create labels so you can move emails out of your inbox. Get all read emails out of your sight, so they aren’t perceived as clutter. If you’re wondering what to use for labels, an article from Fast Company suggests ditching subjects for deadlines. The article suggests creating only four additional folders/labels: Today, This Week, This Month/Quarter, and FYI. The first three are labeled based on when a response is needed. The “FYI” folder is for emails that don’t require a response, but aren’t ready to be deleted.
When you receive an email that requires a same day response and you can’t reply immediately, move it to the “Today” folder. Check that folder at the end of each day to make sure crucial communications don’t slip through the cracks.
3. Your cloud storage accounts
How much money do you pay each month to host files you don’t access? Using cloud storage to store unorganized files you may not even need is like shoving everything you don’t use into your closet. You can’t see the mess, so you don’t think about it, but good luck finding something specific when you need it.
Your files would be equally safe on an external hard drive in your home. The difference is paying about $80 for an external drive you get to keep forever – and paying a monthly fee indefinitely that keeps increasing as you use more space. Being charged automatically for more space as you need it is sold as a convenience, but it’s actually a business model to generate more revenue.
Kick digital clutter to the recycle bin Once you complete a digital cleaning spree, the only way to prevent its return is to stay on top of your game every day. Delete unnecessary files at the end of the day, and be careful not to use cloud storage as a catch-all.