Today, we spend a big portion of our lives online. We accumulate files, apps, photos and social media accounts.
And as a result, our lives have never been so complex and our minds so cluttered.
It took me long to realize that a digital mess is no better than a physical one and that clutter is clutter, whether you can touch it or not.
I used to have 5 email accounts, 500 articles in my reading list, 200 bookmarks, lots of apps I never used, a huge mess of a desktop…
….and oh boy, did it make my life difficult.
Since then, I have deleted, streamlined and simplified my digital life so that I can easily find my files, save time and be more productive.
Ready to simplify your digital life? Here are the 15 steps that I followed.
1. Disable notifications
Websites send push notifications to alert their readers of new posts, videos or any new content. But if you are active on many different sites, there is a chance that you receive way too many notifications.
Disabling push notifications will prevent you from getting constantly distracted and in turn help you do more focused work.
2. Archive your emails
Probably one of the best ways to declutter your digital life is to archive your emails.
Here are all the reasons why you should do it:
- Gain clarity: tidy inbox, tidy mind. Need I say more?
- Procrastinate less: now that you only have a few emails in your inbox and are clear on what needs to be done, you are more likely to take action right away.
- Peace of mind: with a tidy inbox, you are less likely to let important emails and communication slip through the cracks.
Archive anything that does not require immediate action. Whenever you’ve taken the required action (answer, pay, etc.) then archive those emails too to keep a clean inbox at all times.
3. Limit the amount of email accounts
Hardly anything will make your digital life more difficult than having several email accounts.
Several passwords, several places to go check for updates or invoices and you will start losing track of what needs to be read and what needs to be done.
Ideally, you should have one or maximum two inboxes.
Most of us are signed up to newsletters we rarely ever read. Yet, we let them clutter our inbox. Now is the time to assess which newsletters you love and unsubscribe to the ones you don’t.
Because you archived your emails, it will be much easier to take this step.
Whenever a new newsletter comes in, do the following:
- open it and read it
- ask yourself if this newsletter is of real value or more of a distraction to you
- If it’s the latter, then scroll down and hit the unsubscribe button.
After a couple of weeks of repeating this step, you should be free of unwanted emails – this is an great way to simplify your digital life.
5. Organize your desktop
There’s nothing more distracting than a cluttered desktop. The best way to decrease mental clutter and gain clarity in your daily life is to declutter your desktop.
Here are a few tips for that:
- Have as few folders as possible on your desktop
- Avoid saving files and folders to your desktop (use Documents instead)
- Avoid having loose files – put them in the corresponding folder
If you want to take it a step further, watch this tutorial:
6. Use a password manager
With the average user maintaining 90 accounts or more, remembering every single password attached to every single account is nearly impossible.
Signing up for a password manager is a fantastic way to simplify your digital life.
Here is what a password manager does for you:
- Generates a secure password (essential for personal data safety)
- Logs you in automatically when you are back on a specific website.
- No need to ever remember a password again – except for one master password to log into the password manager service itself.
There are many free password manager services out there (1password, dashlane, lastpass, roboform, etc.)
7. Delete phone apps
Studies show that even with 100+ apps on our phones, we only ever use the few same ones.
So what not let go of the ones we never actually use?
Here is an easy way to do it:
- Take inventory of all of your apps
- Delete any app you have not used in over a month
- Keep track of your phone use habits for the next two weeks (or use screen time)
- Delete any other app you have not used in that time
8. Reorganize remaining apps into folders
Reorganize your existing apps into folders so that they all fit on one screen.
Here are the most popular categories:
- Social media (Instagram, facebook, pinterest, twitter, etc.)
- Entertainment (Netflix, videos, YouTube, etc.)
- Navigation (google maps, mapquest, waze, etc.)
- Health (fitbit, mindbody, myfitnesspal, etc.)
- Extras (calculator, password manager, wallet, contacts, etc.)
9. Organize your bookmarks in folders
Before I made the decision to minimize my digital life, I had 202 bookmarks! And after observing my habits for a few days, I noticed that I only ever used 6 or 7 of them on a daily basis.
When I cleaned up, I realized that I had valuable bookmarked resources that I probably would have used had I remembered that there were there!
So, the trick with bookmarks is to:
- Have fewer of them.
- Organize them into folders so you can easily find every single one of them.
Here are videos on how to create bookmark folders:
10. Clean up your reading list
How long is your reading list? Do you ever go back to the bottom of this list?
Most of us don’t.
The truth is that we rarely ever go back to our reading list to read what we saved in the first place. The list gets longer and longer every day and becomes clutter (for our devices and our minds)
- Scroll through your list
- Decide whether any link is worth keeping
- Delete everything else
11. Sign up for the cloud
Getting on the cloud is probably one of the best things you can do to simplify your digital life. And here are all the reasons why:
- Data backup: if your laptop or phone ever gets stolen, you won’t lose your photos and important files – they remain on the cloud.
- Work from anywhere: you can access all of your files and data at all times anywhere you go.
- Storage solution: the cloud increases your storage capacity
12. Solve storage issues
Storage is a huge pain point especially when it comes to mobile phones. When your phone capacity is maxed out, you cannot take new photos, videos or download new apps.
Storage issues need to be dealt with before they get out of control.
Here are two ways to solve this issue:
- Upgrade your icloud storage and increase your capacity from 5G to 50GB.
- Download the google photos app, synchronize your photos on another device and delete the photos on your phone manually.
13. Reduce the mindless web surfing
It’s easy to say, harder to do, I know. But the truth is that we all waste precious hours of our lives lost in the www. You think you are just going to read a quick article and then you get sucked into click baits after click baits only to re-emerge later not really knowing why you were online in the first place.
I don’t have any concrete action step here except maybe to be more intentional and mindful on how and where you spend your time online.
14. Use getcoldturkey.com
Between social media, emails and notifications, it’s easy to get distracted when working on your laptop.
Cold turkey is a free browser extension that blocks all of social media sites, emails and other distractions for a set period of time.
When you need to do some work, the blocker prevents you from “escaping reality” through mindless browsing and actually stay on task.
It’s a super effective tool to increase your focus and be more productive.
15. Set app limits to limit your phone usage
In an effort to improve our ‘digital health’, Apple developed a new feature that can be found in Settings : Screen Time.
Screen Time gathers data on the way that we use our phones: how often we pick it up on a daily basis and how much time we spend on each app.
If you feel that smartphone addiction is an issue for you, you can set yourself daily or weekly limits per app.
Those are the 15 steps that I used to simplify my digital life. I hope that you it will help you free up some of your time and inspire you to go on a social media detox.