6 Tips for Avoiding Digital Clutter

By Greenstein, Rogoff, Olsen and Co., LLP

What is “Digital Clutter” and why do we need to avoid it? Although there isn’t a true definition for the phrase, we can define the term “clutter” and apply it to the digital world. “Clutter” is defined as a collection of things lying about in an untidy mess. Although digital clutter is something we cannot see, it exists and collects dust while taking up “space”. We all have digital clutter and must organize it to be productive and efficient. We now live in a world of increasing advancements in technology. With these new tools to help us stay “organized” we often collect more than we need… useless apps, digital photos, and old school reports, just to name a few. Here is a list of six tips to help you organize and clean up your digital clutter.

1. Save files in the right place the first time. When saving a document, how often do you save it directly to your desktop because it’s easier? Not only is this a bad practice, but it results in documents being piled on your desktop, only to make it increasingly more difficult to find what you need. Once your desktop becomes too full, you then must take the time to move each document into its appropriate location. This can be time consuming. By making just a few extra clicks and saving documents in their appropriate location, the first time, you will be more efficient in the long-run.

2. Create a method for naming documents. It’s good practice keep file names short. Long file names can be hard to read, especially when you are short on time. Name your file something specific but short enough that it gives you a quick idea about the file. Be consistent when naming documents of similar type but put enough information that sets it apart. For example, with a billing invoice you could name it, “Billing Invoice 2012-02-15”, and then change the date for each invoice.

3. Create a method for organizing folders. Folders are meant to help organize your documents. With this in mind, try to avoid creating a maze of folders. Creating too many folders and burying them within each other, will make it harder and more time consuming when it comes time to search for a particular file. Properly name your folders with names that aren’t too long but are easily recognizable.

4. Train others on your organizational process. Whether you are digitally organizing your home computer or office computer, it’s important that others users are following the same guidelines for saving and naming files. This will save everyone time.

5. De-junk every six months. Every six months, set a time aside to go through your digital files and organize them. Remove anything that you no longer need and organize any files that are out of place. This is also a good time to clear out old emails, un-install any programs that you don’t use, clear your browser’s cache, and empty the Recycle Bin and temporary internet files folder.

6. Backup your documents. There are many different sources to choose from when it comes to backing up files. The most popular option is cloud storage space. Cloud storage backs up your files online. This is beneficial because you always have access to your documents, even in the event of a disaster. Another benefit of cloud storage is that with the increase use of tablets, smartphones and other devices, you can often access files on these mediums. Other methods for backing up documents include external hard drives, USB flash drives, and CD/DVDs. Make sure you backup often. It might be helpful to set a date each week or month to run a backup.

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