Just like a clean physical workspace can help you focus and be more productive, so can a clean digital environment.
In this post, I'll share 8 things I do every January to declutter and optimize my digital life.
1. Clean desktop.
A clean desktop is the first step towards a clean digital workspace.
I don't know about you, but by the end of the year, my desktop is a complete mess.
So the first thing I do is get rid of all the screenshots, unused shortcuts, random files, and empty folders that piled up over the course of the year.
The only things I keep are the essentials folders and shortcuts that I access on a daily or weekly basis (e.g. shortcuts to jobs in progress such as explainer videos or new products I’m working on).
In addition to my desktop, I also clean up my desk, and office in general. Obviously, I try to do this several times a week, but at least twice a year I take things a step further to rearrange and optimize my office space.
2. Empty downloads folder.
If you're anything like me, your downloads folder is packed full of items you no longer need.
This doesn't only make it a pain to find files when you need them, but it also eats up a big chunk of storage.
To stress my point – at this very moment, my downloads folder has 658 items and is taking up 8.5 GB of storage on my hard drive.
And that's even though I try to clean up my downloads folder once every couple of months.
I bet that 90% of those files are things I don’t need anymore, so now is the time to say goodbye.
3. Inbox Zero.
I aim to start the new year (and each week) with zero emails in my inbox (aka; Inbox Zero).
This means it's time to reply to all snoozed emails, move emails from your inbox into archives folders or labels, and delete unneeded emails.
When it comes to maintaining an efficient and productive email environment, I do two things:
- Use filters and labels.
- Display unread emails first.
I cover more about this in 15 Hidden Gmail Tips & Tricks.
4. Optimize cloud storage.
The ‘Cloud' revolutionized the way we backup, share and store our files.
My two favorites cloud services are Dropbox and Google Drive – both which offer free plans, and have upgraded plans to increase storage space and gain access to premium features.
Since I pay for the storage I use in my Dropbox and Google Drive accounts, each year-end I do this:
- Delete unneeded files that are taking up space.
- Delete draft documents I won't need anymore.
- Organize scattered files into folders.
- Delete non-active shared folders.
- Tidy things up.
5. Website optimization.
During the year I start writing many posts that never see the light of day.
So at the end of the year, I review all these draft posts and decide which are worth keeping and which need to go.
Then, I review the live pages on my site and do the following:
- Update old screenshots across the website.
- Update outdated posts.
- Delete non-relevant pages or content.
6. Unused apps.
Nowadays we use our mobile devices just as much as we use our laptops or desktop computers.
So at least once a year it's a good idea to review the apps on your phone and delete the ones you don't ever use.
This will not only make the apps you do use easier to find but will also speed up your phone.
7. Fresh Start.
My computer is the most valuable tool in my business.
So something I try to do every year-end is physically clean the machine & format my entire computer (i.e. erase everything and install a fresh version of Windows).
The only thing that may delay this important process is if I’m in the middle of a project.
Doing this allows me to ensure my system is in it's most optimized state, and start the year when I know everything is working as it should.
Before I do this, I make sure to backup all my files both in the Cloud and on physical hard drives. I also make a list of all the software I have installed to make sure I don’t forget anything when I setup the new system.
Then, once all is up & running, I take my computer to the local electronics shop and physically clean the internal computer parts using an air compressor.
You'll be amazed at how much dust piles up inside the computer during the year. It's crazy.
And while at the shop, I also upgrade any outdated internal components.
Note #1: I use a desktop PC for my heavy lifting 2D and 3D motion design work, which means I can open up the actual box and clean things inside.
Note #2: Since I format my computer, I don't really need to clean up my desktop and downloads folder first. But doing so helps me make sure I'm not forgetting to backup anything important.
8. Monthly payments
$10 + $9.99 + $29 + $15…..
Recurring monthly costs adds up and can result in a significant chunk of money each month.
I mentioned paying for cloud services on a monthly basis, but that's not the only service I pay for monthly.
My current monthly / yearly list includes things such as:
- Dropbox account
- Email marketing
- Accounting app
- Upwork membership
- Adobe CC
- Website hosting
The list goes on…
So at the end of each year, I make a list of all my subscriptions and evaluate which to keep and which to discontinue.
As we race through the fast pace of work and life, it's hard to keep our digital life clean and tidy.
Things pile up, and our digital environment can get a little messy.
Plus, we may be paying for tools or services we don't really need.
The end of the year (or the first week of the new year), is an excellent opportunity to schedule time to review, organize and optimize your digital space.
But to make sure it happens, you need to plan ahead and schedule at least half a day for it. Go ahead and add "Declutter my business" to your calendar.