Digital Space Organization – Easy Ways To Implement!
Most of us know the value of living in a tidy and clutter-free home - even if we don’t always manage it entirely. It’s good to know exactly where your car keys or wallet are or to be able to walk through the house without tripping over children's toys. We try to avoid irritations like being unable to find the TV remote control or the cell phone charger.
If you’re cooking, doing laundry, starting a DIY project, or just getting ready for work in the morning, you need to be organized. Most of us take it for granted that household items belong in their own place. When we come home with bags of shopping, the food goes straight into the fridge and storage cupboards. When we’re done, we don’t wait days to take out the garbage or to do the dishes.
People who are house proud, and highly organized in day-to-day routines, can sometimes be completely sloppy and disorganized in their personal and professional digital space. Most of us learned from childhood how to manage our physical space and daily tasks. When it comes to digital space, we suddenly need a secretary or a PA!
We’ll take a look at the concept of digital space organization and how to manage it effectively. Once you have your digital space under control, you’ll be amazed at how much unnecessary stress you were actually under. Effective digital space organization doesn’t just make life easier, it can rapidly increase your productivity and general effectiveness.
What is Digital Space?
Our digital space is every aspect of our work lives and private lives that are managed on a computer or other device with digital storage. This includes our emails, apps, social media profiles, banking and billing, online shopping, kupat holim, private digital photo albums, and even our recreational internet browsing. The average person spends a huge amount of time online, and many of us are connected on some level either 24/7 or 24/6.
Even a basic laptop or smartphone is the modern equivalent of an entire office, communication center, and home entertainment suite. Every time we slip our phone into our pocket and leave the house, we’re walking around with work and communications tools that would have filled an entire building a couple of generations ago.
Our individual capacity to communicate and our potential to achieve results has taken a quantum leap in the last 30 years. Unfortunately, our personal organizational and management skills haven’t kept pace with technological innovation. We’re overloaded with apps, programs, technical tools, media, and information. Digital clutter is a daily side effect of the online revolution.
How to Identify Digital Clutter
Take a look at the basic files on your computer. Operating systems may vary, but under My PC you’ll probably see some variation of Desktop, Downloads, Documents, Music, and Videos. You’ll also see some kind of status bar telling you how much storage space you have free on your hard disk drives. It’s all pretty simple, logical, and user-friendly. In a sense, the layout is actually too convenient.
When you take a glance at the layout of This PC, the chances are that you’ll only have a very general idea of what files you actually have on your computer. You probably won’t even know which programs and apps are installed. Most PCs are cluttered up with unused programs and apps, unwanted downloads, and redundant or irrelevant features. Some of these may even be actively harmful. All of them are taking up space on your hard drives and are potentially taking up CPU and memory, slowing your computer.
Equally, if you take a look through your personal files, you’ll probably find all kinds of unwanted media. These include the downloaded videos that you never got around to watching, or forgot to delete. The average My Documents folder is often more of a repository or junkyard for outdated files. Digital photos can take up a considerable amount of storage space, but we seldom get around to transferring them to cloud storage.
The same principles apply to your desktop, email inbox, social media accounts, smartphone, and any other devices you use. A few minutes invested in digital housekeeping will help you to operate far more efficiently. A properly organized digital space can prevent a lot of problems, and may even save you money!
Digital Clutter in your Web Browser
Slow web browsers are seriously frustrating, but problems are often self-inflicted. If you have 50 plus tabs open in one window, and another 20 tabs open in half a dozen other windows, is it entirely surprising that you’re experiencing glitches with your browser? You’re probably also wasting time and experiencing frustration as you try to jump from tab to tab to complete a work assignment.
If you’re using Google Chrome, there is a useful little browser feature called Reading List. You can conveniently save web page URLs and return them with a single click. Rather than slowing up your browser with a mass of open tabs, use the Reading List. Aim to work with a maximum of 5 open tabs per window. You can also use a few minutes to tidy up your bookmarks and delete irrelevant sites. It might sound obvious, but plenty of people don’t organize their bookmarks into logical categories like Work, Utilities, or Online Shopping.
Work with the Right Web Browsers
Big-name browsers like Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Firefox, and Safari tend to be the default choices for most internet users. If you’re using Chrome, you can set up different browser accounts e.g. Work and Personal. Compartmentalizing your browser makes it easier to organize your online activity. It can also reduce distractions and the temptation to jump to Facebook, Instagram, or online stores while you’re trying to work.
It’s also worth researching some less well-known browsers, particularly if online privacy is a concern. Check out Vivaldi or Brave for enhanced privacy, or DuckDuckGo as a useful alternative to Google. Epic, Chromium, and Opera may also be worth a look. If you are sticking with one of the major browsers, pay attention to which permissions, plugins, and addons are running. They aren’t all necessary, or even beneficial.
Organize Your Files
Next time you are at a loose end or need a break from another task, take a look at your digital files. The chances are that they are haphazardly organized, confusingly named, and frequently duplicated, out of date, or irrelevant. You need to do three things:
- Back Up
Rationalize your Digital Files
The starting point for effective digital space organization is to keep everything simple. Create two basic categories: Work Files and Personal Files. Within these two core categories, you can create subfolders (but continue with the concept of simplicity).
Start by checking and identifying each existing file. Where necessary, take the time to rename it. If your My Documents and Downloads are full of random files with names like “194144350.23 (1)” you’ve got a problem. If you can’t go through the files systematically but are worried about permanently deleting them, save them on an external hard drive or cloud account. When you save documents or download files in the future, take another 10 seconds to clearly rename them. It’s basic self-discipline that will save you a lot of time later.
Back Up your Digital Files
Backing up your computer, phone, emails, Whatsapp chats, etc. is a common-sense precaution that almost everybody neglects at some point. Keeping a secure copy of your entire digital life can save you a lot of grief. If your computer crashes, you lose passwords, or can’t find a file, your backup will still be there. You can set your devices to back up automatically, and you can also set aside some time to go over your files and back them up manually.
If you have sensitive files, important files, or digital items with sentimental value, pay attention to encryption. You may prefer (or even be required) to store some items on an encrypted hard drive and keep it in a safe location. Cloud storage is reliable, but you should never assume that it’s 100% secure, or 100% reliable. Saving digital files on cloud storage is comparable to putting your valuables in a safety deposit box in a bank vault. They will probably be completely safe, and you can always access them, but there is a small chance that they could be robbed.
Delete Non-Essential Digital Files
The advantage of doing a weekly backup (even a 5-minute process) is that you can then delete the backed-up files from your hard drive. It’s also a good opportunity to delete garbage files. There’s no reason to litter your hard drive with year-old screenshots from completed projects, installation files for unused programs, old RAR files, and all the other junk that accumulates daily. You’ll have more storage space with less clutter, and your computer may run faster.
As well as nonessential files, you can probably delete a whole selection of unused apps and programs (especially those that were installed by stealth when you downloaded another program). Try opening the Uninstall or Change a Program tool on your PC. When you check through the list of installed apps, you’ll probably see several that you either don’t recognize or no longer need. Be ruthless about deleting them, you’ll receive a warning if a program is vital to your operating system.
Photos, Videos, and Music
There are three things that eat up hard disk storage space and cause clutter: Digital photos, videos, and music. This is a particular problem with smartphones, especially when apps like the Whatsapp store received media. If you want to keep digital photos, create albums and back them up. Cloud storage options like iCloud, Dropbox, or OneDrive are ideal.
High-speed broadband and fiber internet are amazing for downloading video clips and movies (or taking your own). The problem is that your devices can easily become cluttered up with GBs of random clips. You’ll probably never watch most of them again. The ones that you do want to keep need to be backed up. Sorting through your video libraries and Whatsapp galleries is a productive way to use up some spare time if you’re sitting on the train, or in a Doctor’s waiting room.
If you spent years creating a personal music collection, you’ll definitely want to back it up. If you listen to your collection at home, keep it on a hard drive or cloud storage and not on your computer. WiFi 6 will deliver a flawless remote connection. Explore storage options for your phone if you take your music around with you.
Free Up Your Inbox!
A cluttered inbox is a headache. Seeing a mass of random emails lowers your mood every time you access your inbox. If you have several email accounts, you’ll have several headaches. You don’t have to practice 'inbox zero’ to make life easy, but you can definitely get more organized.
- Keep a dedicated email address for all your online shopping, utilities and personal admin. Everytime you get an update from eBay or Amazon, it will go to that email and won’t be a distraction. A secure email address like ProtonMail with end to end encryption, 2 factor authentication is recommended.
- If you’re active on social media, use another dedicated email address for your social media. The last thing you want is non-stop Facebook friend suggestions or Instagram alerts spamming your other inboxes. If Linkedin is important to you, keep it separate and enable desktop alerts.
- Use email filters to categorize and prioritize. Take an extra minute to mark spam and unsubscribe from unwelcome marketing emails.
- Try checking your emails at regular times e.g. twice daily. Aim to reply to emails immediately, and delete or file emails away where possible.
Optimize your Internet and Phone Services
When you’re organizing your digital space, it’s worth taking some extra time to check whether you have the best possible internet connection and phone package. Optimizing both can increase your productivity and efficiency. Consolidating all your telecommunications services with a single English-speaking supplier can also save time and money.
Signing up with TCS (or transferring other services to your existing package) can take your digital space organization to a new level, especially when you upgrade to a fiber internet package, or get virtual foreign numbers for your cell phone and landline.