It’s a necessity for entrepreneurs to be online for internet marketing, to provide services to clients and customer service as well as to simply be connected with industry news and social contacts. Yet being online seems to diminish our attention spans and take over our private lives. It’s a common Catch-22 problem that needs to be addressed lest our brains become one with our computers (isn’t this the plot of a sci-fi movie already?)
You can approach this digital decluttering in a few different ways. To begin slowly, take a few of these tips below and start to implement them into your daily life. Or start with one tip then move on to another one when you feel the first is complete.
No matter your approach, take time to evaluate just how distracted you are with your digital clutter and analyze how you can regain some of your free time by eliminating extra work.
Tips for Digital Decluttering
- Embrace time-blocking strategies. Set aside blocks of time for checking emails, social media, and working with clients. You’ll be more productive when focused on just one task at a time.
- Turn off notifications. Those chimes are nothing more than distractions that are pulling you away from your work or your family and friends. Whatever is causing the distraction will still be there; just deal with it in your own time frame.
- Limit your social profiles. Do you REALLY need to be on every platform available? Absolutely not. In fact, it’s a good social media marketing strategy to only concentrate on the ones where your target audience hangs out.
Cut out those that you rarely use or that your ideal client doesn’t use. Identify which ones you use for personal fun and those you use for business.
- Deep clean your list of followers on social media. Do you know these “friends” in real life? Are they business associates or part of your ideal audience? Have you ever interacted with them online? Be smart with your social followings and unfriend anyone who doesn’t fit in one of these categories. If you’re willing to form a relationship with these people, keep them and start engaging for a set period of time. Without the engagement, you’re basically sharing information (some of it personal) with a bunch of strangers and/or people who will never do business with you.
- Decide what type of news you want in your social media feeds. Negative news, political rants, or news that goes against your core beliefs distract and affect your mood. You are in complete control of who you allow on your feed so exercise your right to unfollow or unfriend those who add too much negativity.
- Declutter your email. Gmail makes life easier with their tabs and their labels system, but you still need to implement processes to keep that inbox manageable. Consider hiring a VA to manage that task for you or use a program such as Clean.email . Set up filters to send certain types of messages straight into folders and remember to check those folders daily.
- Implement a “touch it or trash it” system for your email. Look at your emails and then decide if you need to: take action, save it, or trash it. No clicking out of the message and letting it sit in your inbox indefinitely. Take an action right there by answering the email, putting it in a digital folder, or deleting it.
- Clear out the photos from your phone on a weekly or monthly basis. How many people do you know who have lost precious photos when they dropped or lost their phones? Backup those photos to the cloud automatically on a regular schedule. Not only will those memories be saved but you’ll also free up enormous amounts of space on your phone.
- Unplug for the weekend. Your business will survive, and your body will thank you for the decrease in stimuli. Go one step further and unplug every evening so you can focus on your family, relax with a new hobby, or simply learn how to decompress and enjoy the quiet.
- Create a social media calendar. Staring at a blank screen with no idea what to post wastes just as much time as scrolling while thinking of what to post. With an editorial calendar filled out, you know exactly what you’ll post and when. Better yet, delegate this task to your VA so all you have to do is respond to questions or comments after the post is published.
- Declutter your hard drive. Do you really need those marketing reports from 8 years ago? Chances are high that the information is out of date, so delete those old files or store them in the cloud. A cluttered hard drive also impedes your productivity, often because you can’t find files quickly. Implement a filing system for your digital files so you can find necessary files quickly and easily without wasting precious time.
- Learn to delegate tasks to a team member or virtual assistant. How is your time best spent? Organizing your files or creating products to sell to your target market? Learning to delegate can be challenging, especially if you’re used to being the sole worker in your business; but it’s a valuable step so you can keep the backend of your business organized while still producing products and programs your audience wants.
- Replace digital activities with real-life activities. Try cutting down your social media time at night to restart an old hobby. Or socialize with friends or family on the weekends. Turn the laptop off 30 minutes early to go for a walk. You’ll soon start to remember how much pleasure these real-life activities provide and just how much time is wasted on those digital distractions.
- Opt for live conversation versus texting. A common complaint about teens and the obsession with their phones is that they don’t know how to have a real live conversation. Only when you’re face-to-face, even if it’s via a video conferencing app such as Zoom, can you make eye contact or hear the inflection in someone’s voice. These subtle nuances are lost on texting apps. While texting is convenient, continue that conversation the next day via phone or video chat.
- Clear out the icons on your desktop screen. Not only do all the extra “shortcuts” slow your computer’s start-up capabilities, but it will also immediately bombard your brain with extraneous images, most of which serve little purpose. Sweep all those icons into a folder to sort through at a later date. Whatever program shortcuts you eliminate, be sure to physically delete that program from your control panel. Now you can start your workday more calmly.
- Set a limit on the number of browser tabs you open. Just because your computer CAN open 25 tabs at once doesn’t mean it should! You’ll likely find your computer working more slowly or even crashing from the strain of having so many browser windows open. Limit yourself to 4-5 tabs to limit distractions and then close them up when your task is complete. If you’re afraid of forgetting the URLs for closed tabs, bookmark them in your browser or save them in a notepad file for later use.
- Utilize cloud storage. Files, photos, or collaborative projects are safer in a cloud storage system than on your hard drive. Google uses state-of-the-art security technology to keep their platforms safe, much safer than your own hard drive. Plus, you’ll prolong the life of your computer and cloud storage makes collaboration a breeze.
- Forward multiple email addresses into one inbox. Instead of checking a business email plus your personal email, forward one of those addresses to the other so you’re only checking one physical location each day. You can still sort and archive these messages and Gmail allows you to respond automatically with the email address used on the original message, so no worries about responding to a business email with your personal email address.
- Utilize a password manager for your computer and your phone. With the onslaught of identity theft and cybersecurity threats, creating unique passwords is even more important these days. However, keeping these passwords safely stored is another problem. Enter the password manager. LastPass has a computer and mobile app for linking your accounts so you can have computer and mobile access wherever you go. No more sticky notes or memos on your phone with all your important information listed for anyone to see.
- Backup your data regularly. Even if this sounds counterintuitive to decluttering, keeping a backup of your important information can be a life saver in case of a breech or other emergency. Create a backup before you start deleting information off your computer or phone. Store this backup in the cloud and perform these backups regularly once your digital decluttering is complete.
- Eliminate any subscriptions you don’t use or find value in anymore. Search through your PayPal account for business-type subscriptions. Some subscriptions you can’t do without – like your web hosting – but no doubt you’ll find others to membership groups that you’ve forgotten about or simply don’t participate in any longer. Just hit that cancel button, with no regrets. If you forgot about a subscription, then it holds no value.
Take your time going through these steps. There’s no right or wrong way to approach this list; if necessary, close your eyes and point to the tip you want to complete first. Completing these steps sooner than later is better, only because digital clutter will impact your productivity, but don’t feel like you have to complete one task each day.