Five S

Digital Clutter on your Computer

These days most of us have computers at home or at least intelligent cell phones which are pretty much a computer on your pocket.  We have home the same issues we have in the office with digital clutter.  Digital clutter is distracting, some people have an account on every single social media they know of and to keep up with all those accounts they need time.

This means that the joy of the social media experience is not met and what is worst is taking away time from creating experiences with the real people around.  Having too many apps on the phone, along with too many pictures lead to running out of space on their phones, which means the need to upgrade to a newer model with more memory that soon will have to upgrade again.  The same happens with the home computer.

The idea about social media and technology is to use it to enjoy and facilitate our lives not to act against us.  I listed before some things to deal with digital clutter at the office, those can also be used at home along with these other ideas:

1.  Email account – I have a couple of friends that have way over a thousand emails on their personal Inbox, which is crazy.  If this is your case as well, you have to do the following: get rid of those subscriptions, unsubscribe from newsletters and ads that you are not interested anymore and make a routine to read your emails daily or at least weekly; do not let them accumulate.  Another thing to look at on your email account is your contacts, avoid duplicates.  Sometimes we have the person saved as two different contacts, one with the phone number and another with the email address.  Some emails apps will identify the duplicates for you and will ask if you want to combine or delete if you have it use It.

2.  Desktop – Do not clutter your desktop with shortcuts for every application, program or document you have, it will not help to be more efficient.  Keep shortcuts just for those application or programs that you use very often and folders for your documents.  Keep in mind that the more folders you have on your desktop the slower the computer will be at start-up.

3.  Documents – Be smart about those folders that I told you to create, use a logic name related to the documents you keep inside.  If you have thousands of pictures and or lots of documents, consider keeping some or all on a cloud service.  The rule to use the cloud is the same, do not create too many folders, keep them organize and delete duplicate or no needed files.

4. Programs or applications – Sometimes we experiment with different applications searching for the right one but when we finally find the perfect app, we do not go back to uninstall the old ones.  Uninstalling old programs or application will free up space on the hard drive.  While checking for unused apps, check also for drivers, digital manuals and apps from old devices no longer in use and uninstall or delete those as well.

5. Media (Pictures/Music/Videos) – The good thing about digital, is that you can keep all the photos, music, books, videos and movies that you want.  That is also the bad thing about digital media.  One thing to avoid is to keep duplicates, like five versions of the same song.  Sometimes we shoot fifty photographs of the same scene to choose one, we don’t need to keep all fifty of them, delete the bad ones to free up tons of space on your disk.  To facilitate the filing process, create the folder, choose the keepers and delete the others right after uploading the pictures from the camera.

6. Internet browser – Your internet browser can be your best friend or not, it takes some time but you can manage to have a browser that will help you to enjoy your time and fight clutter.  Let’s start with the bookmarks and reading lists.  As with everything else, delete those that are no longer needed and then create a folder system for what you need.  Un-subscribe from blogs that you are not interested anymore.  Cookies and temporary internet files accumulate over time and create space and speed issues on your computer.  Learn how to delete them and do it every once in a while, this needs to be part of the computer preventive maintenance.

After uninstalling programs and applications and deleting documents, pictures and others a final step is to clean up your disc.  Learn how to analyze, clean up and complete defragmentation on your computer, this is another way to free up some space and keep your computer healthy.   Keep your computer and phone clutter free and enjoy!

Continuous Improvement

Is digital clutter preventive you from being productive?

On my last post I was talking about the digital clutter created by the existence of multiple programs or applications to record information or do things on the office.  There is not much that we can do to change the applications that corporate want us to use but there are many things that we can do to fix the clutter that we create on our own.  These clutter cause lost of productivity and focus, its constitute a colosal waste of time and a good way to practice continuous improvement.

1.  Desktop icons

The desktop of some of my colleagues looks like a view of NY city from twenty thousand feet, a tiles collection so tight that there is almost no space.  The reason is the need to access the applications or the critical documents as fast as possible.  Filling the desktop with shortcuts defeats the purpose because now you have so many icons there that you waste time looking for the right one.  Start deleting the shortcuts of obsolete applications, then those of programs that you use once on a blue moon.  Same with the critical documents, delete what you do not need anymore.  I bet that from it left not all are critical; maybe you just use them pretty often.  The solution for this will be to create folders, I will mention this on my number 3 below.

2.  Emails

We don’t want to miss a piece of information, therefore the solution is to ask everybody to copy you on their emails.  The problem is that then you receive the email you want plus a lot more that you do not, mostly of people replying to all just to say thank you.  Also you receive emails that honestly you don’t need anymore, maybe because your role changed.  You spend time just browsing through them, deleting and filing.  It is better to just ask politely to be removed of those distribution lists where you don’t need to be anymore.

Another thing I do is to follow the one touch rule.  Once I open an email, I read it and decide what to do with it; can I delete it?  Should I file it?  Do I need to keep a reminder to do something later?  Whatever it is, I will do it at that moment; that way I touch that email only once, do what I have to do with it and then I delete it from the inbox.    There are a couple more tricks that I used when it comes to emails but that will be the subject of a future post.

3.  Documents

There are two things about documents:  necessity and organization.  Like with emails, you don’t need everything that landed on your hands, or your email.  Somethings are to be read and then deleted.  There are recurrent or daily reports that you receive which contain all the information year or month to-day, saving every single one of them is unnecessary and will create clutter.

If you prefer to save all of them, then you need to work with the organization.  I know people who create folders to save their documents, but there is no logic whatsoever on the folders names.  Or maybe there is some logic, but then there are a couple of folders with the same name or worst, there are folders inside folders inside folders.  You would need a map to be able to find where your document is.  I have folders by themes, let’s say: daily reports, CI projects, training materials and others.  Then your sub-folders name can be the name of the reports, projects or trainings.  You have to create your own organization system based on your needs, once you have it, use it consistently.

Finally, even when you follow these rules every once on a while you will have to take some time to browse your emails, folders and desktop and do some maintenance.  Reorganize, delete, improve your system.  Keeping clutter out of your computer will help you to be more productive and focus, spend your energy creating not looking for lost information.

Continuous Improvement

I know you are busy, are you productive?

While reviewing the monthly expenses, I noticed that the maintenance and repair account was already over budget. My instinct is to check the details of the account and see where exactly we spend all that money. I click on the right option, but I did not get the information I needed, why? Because we spend millions of dollars on an enterprise resource planning software and then spend a couple of thousands to buy a computerized maintenance management system to manage all maintenance expenses.

This is not the only case of redundancy on computerized systems or applications that we have.  We had at least another four different applications that we used instead of that very powerful, very expensive enterprise resource planning software.  The result is digital clutter, and confusion and of course a lot of frustration.

Every time you need information or need to do something, the first question is, where? what application I need to use?  You will think that the answer to this question is intuitive, that you don’t need to think about it but whoever work ten plus hours a day, know that at some point you are so tired you don’t even remember what you meant to do, much less how to do it.  To be able to reach out those applications faster, we save shortcuts on our desktop.  Now we have so many of those icons on the desktop that your brain becomes as slow as your computer trying to find out the one you need out of all that clutter.  With multiple programs, it comes multiple usernames and passwords which of course you never remember which one is the right one for each application.

We are busy the entire day, are we productive? We need to find ways to remove all that clutter and focus on the important things.  Maybe there is not much that we can do to convince our corporate office to maximize the use of a couple of applications and get rid of others but definitely, there are a lot of things that we can do to deal with our self-inflicted clutter.  In the next posts, I will discuss what we can do to deal with digital clutter and other kinds of clutter in our office.