Matthew Schenk on How to Declutter Your Digital Life

Managing your digital files to maximize your potential.

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Life is better when it’s organized. Having an organized life saves times, reduces stress, increases productivity, and just feels good. An area of organization that is easily overlooked, however, is our digital life. Years of files, photos, and applications pile up to fill the seemingly endless void of “the cloud” where all of this data lives.

With so many of us depending on our devices for everything from work to family to entertainment, decluttering your digital life can have as much, if not more, of an impact as a home or office makeover. These simple steps will go a long way towards better utilization of your digital resources. 

Develop a meaningful file structure 

The time spent sifting through files, opening and closing different versions of the same file, and searching through the endless catalogue of digital media can add up substantially over time. Whether your files are stored on a hard drive or a networked drive, take a moment to reflect on the number of folders you have and how many files are contained within each of those. Put some thought into the things you are saving and try to adopt a folder structure that allows you to categorize any file within 3 clicks. For example, if I want to find my tax returns from any year, I will navigate to Personal Documents  Finance  Taxes. 

Adopt a meaningful file naming convention 

When naming files, think about how to identify this file in 1-5 words. You don’t need any essay, but also be clear about what is in the file. Adding the date to the file naming convention can really help when searching for something from a certain time period. Every file I save has a topic then the year, month, and day the file was created. If I am working with a team, the file also includes my last name so I can easily identify myself as the author. For example, if I am writing a graduation speech, the file name would be Schenk Graduation Speech 2020.11.25

Delete redundant and outdated files and photos

I cannot stress this enough… the less you have the more you will use. Do not be afraid to delete old files or photos. If the thought of deleting files terrifies your (or if your organization has policies that prohibit the deletion of files) consider archiving the files you no longer use on a regular basis.  By riding yourself of the files you don’t use, you will better be able to see the meaningful files that you may need. I do this “purging” whenever I travel. I use the time on the airplane to delete redundant photos or long-forgotten screenshots then I use the time in the hotel to get rid of half-written and no-longer needed documents. I also try to delete an app or two each month from my phone. 

Conclusion

With so much of our life online, taking time to intentionally organize your digital life can have a substantial impact on your life. If the thought of tackling decades of stored files gives you anxiety, don’t worry – start small. Maybe start by deleting 10 photos from your phone or 1 app from your phone. Give it a few days then try to remove a few more. It likely took years to collect all of the clutter, you don’t have to get rid of it in one day. 

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