It’s a new year. Time for a fresh start with New Year’s resolutions, goals, promises, or pacts. Some wait and enjoy a spring cleaning ritual. I like to tidy up my digital life on a regular basis. Simplify and standardize is my mantra.
Our lives have become a cluttered digital mess. We have work and personal email accounts; work, personal and family calendars; to-do lists; project management systems; CRMs. We have files on our desktop, in our Downloads folder, My Documents (Windows) or Documents (Mac) folders, in Google Drive, in One Drive, and/or in Dropbox. We have photos on our phone, on our DSLR, on our computer, on our family Shutterfly site. We use Pocket to store articles we want to read later, or maybe just the old fashioned Bookmarks feature in your web browser. We use Delicious to bookmark articles we’ve read and want to add to our digital bookshelf. Maybe you got a fancy new gizmo for Christmas or Hanukkah that lets you talk to it to remember things.
Whew. That’s more than enough to make a person exhausted. Have no fear – I’m here to help. *pulls out Wonder Woman cape*
There are so many great tools out there to make our lives easier. Here are my top three tips for organizing your digital life.
- Make your to-do list work for you.
I am a huge fan and long-time user of Remember the Milk. It has the ability to keep separate lists, you can add tags, prioritize, have sub-tasks, due dates and much more. I have about a dozen different lists, as I like the ability to be able to see not only what is due today, but also see all the topical lists. For example, when I recently moved, I had a “change address” list. I kept populating it in the month prior with all of the companies, bills, etc. I’d have to notify with my new address. When I wanted focused time just to work on that project, and because most of them didn’t have specific deadlines/due dates, I would just view the list and plug through it one-by-one. Other lists I use regularly include: consulting, personal, blog, medical, shopping.
- Keep your computer’s desktop clean.
I’ll admit, I get hives when I see people’s computers with 832 files on the desktop. To others, it doesn’t bother them a bit. I like to use the desktop as a temporary holding place. These are files that I must take action on. Pick one file system and stick with it, whether it’s a cloud-based storage option such as Google Drive or Dropbox, or your local hard drive (only if you backup regularly).
- Schedule. Everything.
This was such a life-changing thing for me. Every day I look ahead to the next day to see what meetings and appointments I have scheduled. I then work around them to schedule other stuff in — reading time, workout, cooking, etc. I’ll schedule multi-hour work blocks for specific projects. I treat that time block like an actual meeting — no interruptions, no distractions. One of my favorite things to do when I worked at Ithaca College was to schedule No Meeting Mondays. That’s right – we didn’t have meetings on Mondays in my department. It’s a great way to ease into the work week, to focus on key projects, to have impromptu brainstorming sessions with colleagues who are also not trapped in meetings. Your time is sacred. Book it.
There is no right or wrong way to do any of this. Everyone’s personality and preferences are different. I work with small business owners, vice presidents and more to help them develop systems that works for them. Contact me to learn more.
What are your favorite digital organization hacks and tools?