Organizing Your Digital Life
We’ve talked quite a bit about decluttering and organizing your physical space, but organizing your digital life is equally important. The amount of digital information we consume on a daily basis can be very overwhelming. From emails and social media to online shopping and digital calendars, it's easy to feel lost in a sea of digital clutter. However, organizing your digital life doesn't have to be complicated.
Our reliance on digital devices for everything from entertainment to finances might make it difficult to figure out where to start. So I’m here to help. With a few simple steps, you can regain control and reduce the stress of managing your digital world.
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Benefits of digital organization
There are many benefits to organizing your digital life:
When you have a well-organized digital space, you can quickly find the things you need, which saves time and helps you work more efficiently.
Clutter and disorganization create chaos and adds to your daily stress, making it more difficult to focus. If you organize your digital space, you will be less stressed because you’ll be able to find what you need.
Working with others is difficult when you’re disorganized. If your digital life is organized, you can easily share files when collaborating. Organization leads to better communication.
When you are organized, you can keep files and passwords more secure and reduce the risk of data breaches or lost information.
Once digital clutter is removed, you can focus and allow your creativity to flow because stress will not be weighing you down. This will help you stay motivated and you will be able to generate new ideas more easily.
Steps for Organizing your digital life:
Step 1: Assess your digital life
The first step to organization is an assessment of the current situation. You need to take stock of the digital tools and services you use daily. Make a list of all of your accounts and how often you use them. Include email accounts, social media platforms, online shopping accounts, and digital calendars. Take your time doing this. Add to your list as more occur to you.
Step 2: Declutter
Once you’ve assessed your digital space, it’s time to declutter.
- Delete unnecessary files and apps. Delete old emails, unused apps, and duplicate files. Empty your trash to free up space. Unsubscribe from newsletters and unfollow social media accounts that don’t make you happy. The goal is to decrease digital noise.
- Streamline your email. Set up filters and folders within your email to automatically sort messages as they come in. You might want to set up a separate email account that you use just for subscribing to newsletters. That way, they aren’t cluttering your main email inbox, but if you want the sales and coupons, you can still access them. CleanEmail is an app that can help you stay on top of email organization.
Step 3: Create a file system
- You need to create a folder system that works with the way you think. Start with a folder for different areas of your life: work, family, hobbies, etc), and then subfolders within each.
- Make sure your folders and documents have clear names (avoid calling them “Document”) so that you can easily find them later. Even if you don’t remember what folder you put something in, you can search by name if you’ve been specific.
- Delete old files. Like cleaning out your closet, if you haven’t used it in a long time, you probably don’t need it. Don’t be a digital hoarder.
- Create a regular schedule to organize. While the setup will take some time, you need to make ongoing organization part of your routine, or it will get out of control again.
Step 4: Back up
I’m the first to admit that I’m really bad at this. For people with executive dysfunction, this is something that will easily fall through the cracks and you won’t even realize the problem until it’s too late. Some people have an external drive that they use to back up files. I’ve known some people who email important files to themselves.
I suggest finding a cloud-based service that will automatically back up your files. It takes the pressure off of you to rely on your memory to do the backup and you won’t have to add something else to your routines.
Step 5: Password management
Some of us of a certain age, are lazy. We use the same handful of passwords over and over. We do this even though we know it’s not safe. But trying to remember and track ALL of the different passwords for a million sites just isn’t gonna happen.
Most computers will auto-generate a strong password and offer to save it. I get it—trying to remember 12 characters with a mix of upper and lowercase letters plus symbols—it’s a lot. Allowing your computer to auto-generate and save works. You can then enable 2-factor authentication as an added layer of security.
The best thing I can recommend when you struggle with executive functioning and remembering all the passwords is to use a password manager. A password manager is a tool that stores all of the strong passwords for you for all of your accounts. Then, you only need to remember one password to access everything. Check out LastPass, 1Password, or Dashlane.
Tips for staying organized
I’m not gonna lie—setting up a well-organized digital system is going to take time. It’s not something you can knock out in a day. But once it is set up…your stress and anxiety over being able to find what you need when you need it will plummet.
However, you need to maintain the system in order for it to work. You need to add digital organization to your daily or weekly routine. Just like you need to set aside some time each week to go through the pile of physical mail that stacks up on your counter, you need to handle your digital piles as well.
Don’t try to do all the things at once. Maybe use Sunday mornings to organize the emails you let slide for the week. Mondays can be work files day, and Wednesdays can be family files day. You get the idea. Spread it out so it’s not an overwhelming task that you don’t even want to consider.
Automate what you can. I talk a lot about automation because it’s a lifesaver for people who struggle with keeping things organized and remembering things. If you take the time upfront to automate, then you don’t have to remember to do it all the time; just set a reminder to check in on automations once a month or so to make sure they’re all still working.
Organizing your digital life can seem daunting. Utilize the steps here as a path. Don’t try to do it all at once. Take it one day at a time until your system is in place.