2 May 2013
We live in an increasingly digitized era. Tasks that used to be performed on paper are now done using smart devices such as your computer, iPad, or phone; no more are the days of filing cabinets filled with paperwork, or shoeboxes pilled high with family photos. Technological advancements have allowed us to unclutter our offices and homes, but how do we make sure that we aren’t just transferring the clutter to a different platform? Here are some tips on organizing your digital world.
One of the areas that people struggle with the most when it comes to digital organization is email. We all know the deal: Monday morning, open up your mailbox – a hundred, two hundred, sometimes three hundred emails cluttering up your path to productivity. This is a slippery slope, if you let it build, important emails might get lost amongst the junk! The trick is to work smarter and not longer. Take an hour or two to organize your email and follow these three easy steps:
1) Unsubscribe to anything that you don’t read. We all have weekly emails that we think we’ll get around to and never do. Unsubscribe. Just click it.
2) Create folders. Come up with categories such as: work, personal, bills, school. Then file past e-mails away. Your inbox should only be filled with current emails that you need to take care of or haven’t yet replied to. This will help you be more efficient in knowing what you’ve done and have yet to do as well as if you’re ever looking for something in the future.
3) Don’t Use Your Inbox to Store Email. Your inbox should act as a tangible “mailbox”. Just like you grab your everyday mail from your mailbox and bring it inside your home or office, your digital box should function the same way. Read a message, deal with it and get it out of your inbox. The only reason it should sit there is if you are waiting for a response from someone or you just haven’t dealt with it yet.
Another area that can easily get cluttered is your documents folder. Word documents, excel sheets, and PDF’s can slowly increase to the point that you don’t know where anything is. Come up with a system to categorize them. Create a folder structure that is catered to you and your work and life. Typical folders would be Business, Creative, Family, Health, Insurance, Money & Taxes, Receipts, Resumes. You might create folders by semester and class if you are a student, by department for work, by project or deadline if you are working on several things at once. If you have monthly documents such as electronic bills, make separate folders for each company and make sure to date them with the month and year and keep them in your Money folder.
PICTURE folders can often benefit from organizing. When it comes to photos the best thing to do is CREATE FOLDERS in your main pictures folder and then break them own by category. Break the folders down by the EVENT and always make sure to add the year to the folder and the pictures. You can have a folder for all your FAMILY PHOTOS and then break these down by event as well. If you spend time travelling, create a TRAVEL folder and then create folders in your travel folder for your trips. For those of us with extensive photo collections, you might consider downloading Picassa which will allow you to photo tag names and locations to each photo, so that if you’re looking for a picture of you in a certain location with a certain friend you can type in that location and person’s name and find the photo instantly. You can also use the BATCH EDIT function to create custom names for a large group of photos.
MUSIC is everywhere these days! If you still have CD’s piled up all over your home, it is time to DIGITZE them and import the ones you want portable to your computer. Most digital music programs such as Windows Media Player and iTunes do a pretty good job of organizing your music for you, but some CD’s won’t be found in the database online. In cases like this make sure to label your music correctly to ensure proper organization. Think about sending all of your music to the CLOUD and use services like Google Play which will stream your music to you anywhere you have a data or internet connection. This will save you tons of space on your computer. If you decide to keep your music locally make sure that it is being backed up as you won’t want your entire music library to disappear one day!
In the process of uncluttering, make sure you delete files that you don’t need and back up those that you want to save. Once you’ve organized your computer, why don’t you take it a step further and implement your strategy on your other smart devices. Organize your text messages or contact list on your smart phone; manage your e-mails on your iPad. Better yet, sync all your devices together so that all the information on each of your platforms is accurate and up to date.
If these methods don’t work for you, come up with some that do! You can alphabetize, use colors, shapes, or pictures to create structure. However you choose to organize your digital space, make sure you come up with a comprehensive strategy and stick to it! Once you’ve set up a system, you want to file as you go, so don’t make things too complicated; your system should be easy to remember and simple to navigate; the idea is to simplify your life and save time!