Episode 26 of The Teaching Space Podcast helps you prepare for a digital declutter to boost your productivity.
Podcast Episode 26 Transcript
Welcome to The Teaching Space podcast, coming to you from Guernsey in the Channel Islands.
Hello, it's Martine here. Welcome to Episode 26 of The Teaching Space Podcast. In today's episode, I'm asking the question, do you need a digital declutter? I'm going to put myself out there and say I think you probably do. As such, in this episode, I plan to share some strategies to help you declutter and detox your digital space.
Let's get thinking about clutter. On the face of it, digital clutter seems very different from physical clutter. There's a great example of this on a blog I like to follow called The Minimalists. If you go to theminimalists.com/digital, you'll find this example. Let me share an extract with you.
Try to move 2,000 books to a new residence. Box up the physical books taking them off their shelves one by one, labelling each box with its appropriate label, self-help, literary fiction, Cambodian interpretive dance etc. Then, carry them to your vehicle, box by box, being careful not to drop them. Then, haul them to your new home. Carry them inside, carefully unpack each box and reshelve each individual book until every last book is sort of back where it was before you started this tedious exercise. Then, next time you move, grab your Kindle with all 2,000 titles instead, toss it in your bag and be on your way.
Using this great example and rationale, the fact that digital clutter is hidden makes it less of a problem, right? Maybe not. If you spend hours a day on your computer struggling to find the files you need, then it's not really hidden, is it? If you always have your email program open and feel overwhelmed every time you see your inbox, this is actually a rather intrusive issue.
An Infinite Amount of Space
Don't get me wrong; I love having an almost infinite amount of space to store digital files. It's enabled me to pare down my book and music collection, keep a constant stream of photo and video memories and run a virtually paperless home office and classroom. I love that, but when it comes down to it, clutter is clutter. That's why I think the answer to the question, do you need a digital declutter, is a resounding yes.
The Container Concept
Let me just share a quick side note on physical clutter. That's not what this episode is about, but I think this might be of interest anyway. Lately, I've been working on reducing the physical clutter in my home. I use Dana K. White's Container Concept. I'm going to talk about her book in our next episode, so make sure you tune in to Episode 27.
An example of this Container Concept is that I have one shelf available for cookbooks. That's the cookbook container, and I'm talking about physical cookbooks here. If I have more cookbooks than I can fit on the shelf, then the stuff, the cookbooks, have outgrown their container and that's not okay.
It is not a case of buying a bigger shelf. What I need to do is pare down the cookbooks, so that what remains are the ones that I really like and there is space on the shelf.
If I buy a new cookbook, I use the one in, one out rule. New one in, old one out. That is the Container Concept, and it is brilliant for physical clutter. Because, as I mentioned before, the spaces we have for digital clutter are so huge, you can't use the Container Concept.
What I've got for you are a number of suggestions, six in total, to help you make a start at having a digital declutter. Here we go.
1. Practice Inbox Zero
I've mentioned Inbox Zero on several podcast episodes now I'm sure. Rather than take you through the entire process, please hop over to the blog and have a look at the lengthy blog post I've written all about Inbox Zero.
It isn't a myth. It is doable. Once you've spent a little bit of time setting yourself up for Inbox Zero, it doesn't take a lot of time to maintain it afterwards.
If you're willing to put a bit of time into setting Inbox Zero up, I guarantee it will improve your life dramatically. You will be less stressed, you will have less clutter and you will be more productive, so do check out that blog post.
2. File Storage
I'm just thinking about places such as Google Drive or your desktop or your computer's hard drive or Dropbox or anywhere you save digital files. Make sure you have a really well thought out folder structure and all of your files, your singular documents, are in folders.
If you have a structure where at the top level, you've got a few folders but lots and lots and lots of files, that's a little bit like having a physical filing cabinet and just throwing paper on the top of it. You need to file your digital files in folders in the same way that you would do that with physical paper and paper folders.
My main online document storage area is Google Drive. I've got my folders set up in such a way that I know exactly what goes where. I have them named very clearly. I also use Emoji to give myself a visual cue as to what goes in each folder, and they're colour-coded.
If you want to set your folders up in Google Drive so that they're colour-coded and have Emoji on them, then I have a video explaining how to do that on my YouTube channel. You can find the link here. Be really, really structured with your folders and your files, and make sure you do your filing.
3. Rethink Your Computer Desktop
It's not a dumping ground. Yes, I get that you can occasionally store things there because they're temporary. That is a quick and easy place to put them. You shouldn't have permanent files and folders there. That's not what it's for. Did you know you can have tools, like Hazel for Mac, to automate cleaning up your desktop?
I also use Hazel, incidentally, to clear out my downloads folder on my Mac. I think it's every 24 hours or so, Hazel goes in and just deletes everything from there. Using automation tools like this can be super helpful for digital decluttering. If you want to find out more about Hazel, hop over to noodlesoft.com.
How many photos do you have on your mobile device right now? Is it 500, 3,000, 10,000? Have a look. Then, have a think about how many of those pictures you'd actually put in a physical photo album if that was something that you did. I reckon it would be a very small percentage.
This means there's a massive amount of digital clutter on your mobile device in the form of photos. I'd like you to rethink your camera roll.
If you start treating it as a photo album, you can delete the images that you don't want.
Say, you've taken a really nice landscape and it took about 30 attempts to get that final photo, that means you can delete 29 pictures. It's quick and easy to do that on your mobile. Treat your camera roll as a photo album, delete the pictures you don't need.
5. Social Media
It's time to do a friend audit on Facebook. All of that input in your timeline is digital clutter. Look at Twitter, look at Instagram, there are mass unfollow apps you can use, many of which are free, to start reducing your social media clutter.
6. Email Newsletters
Look at your inbox, how many have you got? Because you're going to be doing Inbox Zero, then hopefully you'll be able to start getting all of those email newsletters under control.
While you're getting ready to do that, I highly recommend Unroll.Me, which you can find at unroll.me. It's a mass unsubscribe system. It does several things. It allows you to unsubscribe quickly, but it also will roll up the newsletters you want to read into one daily digest.
If you don't fancy using this system, then another option is to set up a separate Gmail email account simply for subscribing to email newsletters. Then, you have a separate inbox so you can, for example, set yourself a diary note to check once a week in your newsletter inbox. That is a far better use of your time and will, ultimately, help you declutter all of those emails.
Of course, there is one email newsletter that you won't want to roll up and you won't want to have going in a separate inbox, and that, friends, is The Teaching Space fortnightly newsletter. Sign up at theteachingspace.com/VIP.
Okay folks, that's all from me today. I really hope you've enjoyed this episode. I hope you'll tune in next time.