Our digital lives today have grown into limitless worlds of notifications, news stories, influencers to follow, music to stream, articles to read, and the list goes on and on. The flip side of all this digital abundance is that we often feel overwhelmed, exhausted, and burned out from dealing with it all throughout what feels like every minute of the day.
A digital declutter is an audit of your entire digital life. It can be supplemented by also removing or reorganizing everything into a simpler, more secure, and backed up system.
According to a survey by Summit Hosting, the average American has about 83 bookmarked websites, 7 tabs or browsers open, 582 saved cellphone photos, and 13 unused apps. To help everyone out (including our team members) we’ve put together a 7-day digital declutter challenge made up of daily tasks to help you transform your digital life, reduce anxiety, and maintain your new-found organization for weeks, if not months, to come.
If you have been feeling overwhelmed by the endless stream of notifications, a cluttered inbox, or disorganized desktop, then take this 7-day challenge to organize your digital life once and for all. Don’t forget to share your progress or invite your friends to participate with the tag #DeclutterWithDesktop so we can follow along.
By removing distracting notifications from your immediate view you limit the “noise” of your devices and the deletion of old reminders and notes can help you direct what is important and what you need to pay more attention to. Broadly, the steps to decluttering are:
The most important thing: be patient with yourself during this challenge — it’s all about establishing a baseline and forming positive habits with tasks that you can slowly chip away at instead of finishing right away.
Now... let's get started!
What’s in your documents folder? More importantly: what do you need in your documents folders? From old projects to all of the documents used to file last year's taxes — what random, outdated documents are you still hanging on to? Here’s how to set up a solid backup system, declutter your documents, and an organized way to manage files going forward:
Before you do anything, make sure your files are backed up. Push yourself to leverage one hardware and one cloud storage solution. If you cannot, at least use the online file syncing service from these options:
Do a quick but thorough sweep of your folders and files to see where they’re saved, how they’re organized, and if you even remember what it’s for.
The fun part: delete files you no longer want, including duplicates. It’s okay to do this in batches if the idea of digging through our files seems overwhelming. One way to combat it is to move files to a folder called “Need To File,” and go through them gradually when you have free time.
Now it’s time to re-organize your folders, using a simple hierarchy. Having trouble visualizing your new folder system? It can help to draw out your folder hierarchy on paper before getting started.
If you have a number of documents of a certain type or function, make a folder for them. Finding you have a lot of folders? Break down your categories further with a few sub-folders. Just keep in mind that files are easiest to find if your organization system isn’t too complicated.
Now that you have your folders set in digital stone, it’s time to drag-and-drop appropriately.
These folders are meant for temporary storage. It’s time to organize them and clear it out. Move or delete downloads and temporary files to clear up space and promote organization.
Settle on a standard file naming convention so everything is easy to find. Remember: files are easiest to find if your naming system isn’t too complicated.
This only works if you make it work. Looking forward, always save files into their relevant folder while you’re using them, so they’re easy to find later down the line.
If you’re not a professional photographer, chances are you don’t have a suitable photograph filing system. Wrong? Congratulations -- you can skip the second half of Day 1. Right? Let’s get this sorted out so you can declutter your photo library.
Like documents, backup your photos on your computer or bring them all to a cloud storage system. If you have a large number of photos, storing them locally on a hard drive or different computer may be the fastest/best option for you.
Want to automate this process? Enroll in a cloud storage solution that automatically creates a backup of your images on the cloud. iPhone users can do this easily with a native iCloud integration and Android users can leverage iCloud, Picasso, or Google Drive.
Set a periodic reminder to keep you on track. By limiting the number of photos you have to upload, storing them is quicker and easier.
How many different services do you use? In the video world there’s Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, Peacock, Disney+, and that’s just to name a few… but that’s just the point we’re trying to make. There’s so many different digital tools, providers, or solutions that we use that it’s almost impossible to keep track of -- so that’s where we’ll start!
Take a minute and try and remember all of the online accounts you have created, access, and keep information on. Now write it down. This is the baseline for the rest of this decluttering assignment.
Comb through your list and mark down all of the accounts that you don’t need, don’t want, and need to get rid of. Take it nice and steady and close down these accounts being sure to cross them off as you go.
Now that your accounts are dwindled down it’s easier to keep track of the important ones. Write them down on a piece of paper (old school) or input them into an online spreadsheet to stay organized. If putting them into a spreadsheet, do not include the password.
Email is the most difficult area to get a handle on. But it is possible to organize it and by keeping it organized you’ll be spending less time checking it. Here’s how we tackled our inbox:
There’s two methods here:
Which method should I choose? Well, that’s up to you. They both work perfectly fine but if you want to manually review the last month to make sure you’re not missing anything important, go with the first.
Do you really read the 20+ emails from every company you’ve ever online shopped? No? How surprising 😱 Realistically, we don’t have all day to read email, and that’s okay. Reduce the number of emails you need to delete and help maintain an organized inbox by unsubscribing if you no longer want to receive emails from a product, campaign, organization, etc.
Using folders is a waste of time, or at least that’s what Science says. In a recent study, Inbox managers who just left messages where they landed were 10% more productive and wasted 10% less of their workday. Don’t use folders, use search.
Email is not meant to manage your task list, so don’t make it. Move away from using email as your default to-do list by responding to or forwarding emails that you can take care of right away. Keep going and add emails that are more involved as a task on your to-do list that you get to later. Finally, you can wrap it all together by deleting or archiving any messages that don’t pertain to your day - keeping your inbox clean and organized.
Stay productive and block out distractions (new emails). Rather than trying to multitask your way to productivity deity, set up an hourly checkpoint to take a break and review your new emails using the strategy above.
Filters = Folders More Mature Cousin. Create specific filters to keep your inbox organized and segmented by important topics, tasks, senders, subjects, and almost anything else you can dream of!
We’re going to start some controversy here - are you ready? Just take a break. While social media has become essential for so many of us to keep us connected, an over-reliance on them leads to anxiety, distraction, and feelings of isolation or overwhelm, that can become paralyzing.
Not quite sure how you feel after using social media? Try taking a break. Go offline for a set period of time (try a week), even if it’s just a day or two you’re working to reset your digital social anxiety.
While you’re off social media, take note about how you feel. Are you thinking differently? Focusing better? Feeling less anxious or FOMO? Write it down. What did you miss about social media? What did you not miss? This can be very helpful in establishing your personal routine and how you interact with social media in a healthy way.
Just want to use social media in a healthy way and not looking to take a break? Don’t worry, we’ve still got a few tips for you.
Do you really use those five different social media apps? Consolidate your apps. Declutter your life by decreasing the number of apps you use by focusing on what you use regularly and what you need. By reducing the number of apps you use, you’re actually reducing the cognitive workload that you’re going to incur; because it’s not easy to remember to check Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, and Snapchat multiple times a day, every day.
This only applies to Facebook and Twitter, but it’s a start. By adding certain accounts to lists, you’re able to group by subject and keep tabs on
By reducing the number of posts you have to scroll, you’re decluttering your news feed and seeing what you actually want to see.
Tech companies are essentially leveraging our psychological vulnerabilities to keep us coming back for more. The easiest way to stop that? Mute notifications. Silencing the dings on your device will help you stay focused and control when you want to go on social media, not the other way around.
If there’s one thing you take away from this entire challenge, let is be this: Take control of the content you see. What do we mean? Don’t only watch “Featured” or “Recommended” content. By relinquishing your control to the social media platform, even voluntarily, you’re creating a negative feedback loop where you only believe that what you find interesting or valuable can be curated by the platform. Trust yourself and watch what you want to watch, even though sometimes it is that “Recommended” post.
Just like day 4, we begin today by decluttering our apps - except this time it’s just not focused on social media. This time we’re branching out to banking, news, games, everything.
We all have a number of apps we don’t use on a daily basis - why are they there? Just take the few seconds it takes to delete them and say goodbye to scrolling home screens to find the apps that you really use.
Do you really order from UberEats, Grubhub, Chowhound, Doordash, Postmates, and Seamless? No? That’s what we thought. Narrow down the number of apps you have by simply consolidating to the ones you use the most. Not only will this reduce the number of accounts you have to manage, but it simplifies your home screen.
Just like on your computer, use folders. It works there… Why won’t it work here?
Take back your attention span. Remove the unnecessary distraction of being at the beck and call of the latest push notification. Rather than being told when to look at something, look at it on your own accord to help reduce the time strain.
With Desktop.com's new browser plugin adding links and apps to your Desktops has never been easier. You’ll now have the option to directly add the current URL in your browser straight to a Desktop of your choice. Better yet - any web apps you used within the past 90 days that match apps available in our App Store, will be automatically suggested for you so that you can add them to your Desktops too with just one click! Learn more about how to use the browser plugin here or by reading our new feature spotlight.
Warning: this isn’t going to be fun. But the security risks created by digital clutter are real. For instance, the most common vulnerability is using the same password for multiple accounts. We get it, it’s hard to keep track of a multitude of different passwords for all of the user accounts you have. Here’s how to deal with this password clutter:
It’s 2020 - Password123! won’t work anymore. It’s important to update your insecure or easy passwords for your accounts. If you want to kind of cheat on this, focus on your highly sensitive accounts, like your bank accounts and health insurance.
It’s simple - sign-up for a password manager and you won’t have to remember more than one password (Hint: Desktop.com is launching an awesome password manager soon! Sign up to stay up-to-date and learn more about our newest features).
These services are accessed via a master password, and they create and store unique, secure passwords for any website or web service. Upon visiting the site, the password manager lets you automatically log into accounts you use with the click of a button.
Now that you only have one password, it’s time to keep it safe. Write down your master password on a piece of paper in case your password manager is somehow compromised or you forget it.
How many bookmarks do you have? Some quick browsing across the internet sees tabulations from different users hitting numbers like 0, 60, and 15,000. Yes, 15,000+ bookmarks across 3,000+ folders - all in one browser. If you’re tired of scrolling through...
Rather than try and organize your tens, hundreds, or thousands of bookmarks you can easily export them to a single file, delete them from your browser, and never be distracted by them again.
Once you’ve exported all of your bookmarks, save them somewhere safe, such as a Dropbox, Google Drive, or Microsoft OneDrive folder. Now you can double-click the exported file to view its contents and use Ctrl+F to search for bookmarks.
In your favorite browser, use the bookmark import function to restore the bookmarks into your browser.
Too many to deal with? We’re not judging. The easiest way to deal with too many bookmarks is to simply hide them from your browser view. This also happens to be a good compromise between immediately erasing those bookmarks and having them in your face all day. To get started, place your bookmarks in a hidden folder and, if you ever use one of these bookmarks, move it out of the folder. Over time, you’ll become more comfortable with the bookmarks that you don’t need and you can simply delete the entire folder.
The key to decluttering your digital life is being honest with yourself about how useful something is. A bookmark for a tool you use every day or your favorite recipe could certainly be useful. But, if you have hundreds or thousands of bookmarks, it’s likely that many of them aren’t really useful. Be honest with yourself. This is the internet, you’ll probably turn to a Google search instead of your cluttered bookmarks if you ever need to find something.
Adding links, bookmarks and apps to your Desktops has never been easier. With our new browser plugin you’ll be able to quickly import all (or a select few) of your existing bookmarks into Desktop.com. Learn more about how to use the browser plugin here or by reading our new feature spotlight.
Like cleaning anything, decluttering your digital space has its trying, tedious moments. That’s why we ultimately decided to break this up into a 7-day series, so you don’t get overwhelmed.
Hopefully, as you worked through this series, you felt good about the changes you were making and now feel that you have more of a handle on your digital world.
The point is not to have a perfect system, or even necessarily to finish every step, but rather to start reclaiming your productivity, mental space, and general organization by getting a handle on your digital ones.