In the COVID-19 era with ample time at home, many people are taking the opportunity to organize and simplify their living spaces. But decluttering your virtual space – including your computer, smartphone, cloud storage, etc. – is just as important as decluttering your physical living space.
About the author
Dawn George, Productivity Consultant at Evernote.
Particularly because there has been a surge in the use of connected digital devices and the internet due to the pandemic (working from home, Zoom, kids using devices for home-schooling, etc.).
So the more we use virtual spaces, the more ‘virtual clutter’ we create, which in turn distracts us, slows us down and makes us less productive. But how do you get started with decluttering virtual space? Here are my step-by-step tips to follow to help you become more organised and productive.
1. Start with organising your computer desktop
Think of your computer desktop like you would your physical desktop – keep it clean and tidy. If your computer desktop is covered with documents and junk, it’s hard to find what you need, when you need it.
Delete unneeded documents, file items you want to keep, and create files for anything that doesn’t already have a home.
2. Clear out your downloads folder
Delete unneeded files and incorporate any files you might need again later into your digital filing system. You may well find lots of duplicate files in your downloads folder, as we often end up downloading files and documents more than once.
So you can also use a tool called Duplicate Files Fixer, which finds and deletes duplicate files (photo, audio, etc.) that are often stored in the downloads folder, to free up storage.
As well as clearing the files in your download, this may of course also help your PC to work faster by deleting bulky files (especially large ones like videos and high-resolution images) that eat up your computer’s memory.
3. Uninstall unwanted apps and programs
You know those free apps or programs on your computer that you never use, why not delete them? They can slow you down and distract you from the task at hand, so don’t be afraid to get rid of them. You can always download them again if you ever need them in future. There are too many apps promising to solve our stresses and strains.
So it’s much better to find a few apps that save you time and make you more productive, learn them thoroughly and stick with them. You should also remove excess applications on your dock or taskbar so you only see the shortcuts you really need, based on what you use the most.
Getting rid of unwanted apps and programs and only having the ones you really need on your taskbar will remove clutter and could increase computer speed too.
4. Clear out your email inbox
Delete emails you no longer need. It’s just digital clutter that will slow you down and move your focus away from the task at hand. Sort your email inbox by the sender when trying to clear your inbox.
Seeing a number of emails grouped together from the same person will often make clearing things out much quicker. Just be sure to change your sort order back afterwards. Then in future, try to keep deleting all emails you don’t need, as you go.
5. Unsubscribe to e-newsletters that no longer interest you
Many of us end up signing up to lots of e-newsletters over time, but we may not be so good at unsubscribing when we need to. This creates digital clutter that fills up your email inbox, both distracting you and slowing you down when you need to search for the email you want.
If you regularly receive an e-newsletter think about whether it really interests you and adds some value to your life. If any e-newsletter doesn’t, unsubscribe straight away. Searching for the word “unsubscribe” in your email program is an easy way to start searching for e-newsletters.
6. Empty the trash and recycling bin on your desktop
Have you ever emptied your computer’s recycling or trash bin? If you have, can you honestly say you do it regularly? And just like your downloads folder, getting rid of larges files especially (e.g. videos and high-resolution images) could help to speed up your PC.
Social media is like the horizon – it goes on and on and on. This means you should think carefully about how to avoid it taking up too much of your time. One simple step to do this is to unfollow social media accounts you don’t really gain much from following – especially ones that are negative or uninteresting.
Just like e-newsletters, think about what you really gain by spending your time following each social media account and engaging with their content. If the answer is not a lot, unfollow – save your time and attention for something more interesting or important in your life.
Ultimately, following these steps and investing the time and effort to declutter your virtual space will help you become more focused, productive and calm.