Digital declutter steps will help you feel in control of the technology you are bombarded with for hours and hours every day. Here are simple steps to do a quick and easy digital declutter.
Digital Declutter Transcript
There’s two main types of people in this world, and it’s those who can handle the notification icons until they max out at 99, or 99,999, and those of us who can’t. With either one, I want to talk to you today about digital decluttering. This is going to be tackling mostly our school related files, but you can apply these tips also into your personal life and your personal tech.
I think that there’s something really important about doing a digital declutter before the end of the semester hits. That’s because we are going to start pulling files so that we can create review packets, so that we can create final exams, so that we can go back and see what worked well, and what didn’t. And then we can move forward with a clean slate that can only happen if we go through it now, and kind of clean up the mess that we’ve made.
So let’s take a look at different areas of our digital lives, and the clutter that is staring us straight in the face. Driving us a little bit crazier each and every time we search for something and forget the keyword that we needed. Let’s try to make it a little bit more streamlined. Today is not going to just have one simple step, but instead we’re going to have multiple simple steps that you can implement in different areas of technology in your life.
First off, we are going to start with your desktop. Whether it is the homescreen on your Chromebook, whether it’s an actual desktop, or whether you have some really old Dell computer that you just cross your fingers and hope will start up. When we save files to our desktop, it’s because at that point, it was very important. But how often have you gone back and actually removed the files that weren’t that important?
Digital Declutter: Downloads
Let’s go ahead and tackle this, but as a precursor step…and this is going to be one that might shock you a little bit..I need to go into your downloads folder. That’s right, open up every single download that you have currently in your downloads folder. You know the sneaky little file that you search for everything. Because when we download stuff, we don’t always actually put it into a permanent place, we just leave it there and search it again.
I want you to go ahead and highlight and drag all of those downloads onto your desktop. You’re probably listening to this freaking out a little bit on the inside, because the whole point was to declutter, but now we’ve just made an entire mess.
Well, what you’re going to do from here is highlight everything on your desktop that is a file. And you’re going to move it into a new folder titled Fall 2022. That’s it, that file is going to stay on your desktop, but it is going to be out of the way. It is going to clear up so much space, and anything that you now need moving forward, you can save back onto your desktop space.
But let’s say you have some magical files that you really need, all of the time, you refer to regularly. We will create a separate folder for those. You might want to consider calling it something like MVF (Most Valuable Files), or Everyday Access, something that signals to you that you know what you need.
Digital Declutter: Desktop Background
Another really cool tip that I like to do when I have free time (which you know is overly abundant for us this time of year), is to make a desktop background in Canva, PowerPoint, Slides, whatever you need, and actually create outlines that have little boxes to help organize things.
So going forward – let’s say you have three preps that you’re working in. You’re going to have a box labeled “Environmental”, you’re going to have a box labeled “Physics”, you’re going to have a box labeled “Freshmen.” That will be on the background of your computer, so you can take your files and pre-organize them into those. That way, you’re never going to forget where you put that important thing that you needed later. And then have a separate section for references, for apps, for all of the other things that come along with a desktop. Now once you clear off the desktop, and it feels fresh, it literally looks like you just opened a new computer.
Digital Declutter: Google Drive
The next section we’re going to look at is your Google Drive. The probably most used website for those of us who are Google schools. If you are in Microsoft school, then you also have your One Drive. Now I’m not 1,000% sure that it’s going to work the exact same way, but stick with me on the principles here.
The first thing we’re going to do in your Google Drive is scroll to all of your unsorted files that are titled Untitled Spreadsheet, Untitled Document, Untitled Slides, and if it is blank, delete them. If it is not, title it. If you’re going to need this in the future, then you need to be able to search it through a title that makes sense. And this is also something that I just need to get out there, do not title these things something cutesy and fancy. You want it to make sense, so that you can search for it and find it later.
This step is going to take a little bit of time, especially if you’re like me, and you start a whole bunch of files, and some of them are just random numbers. Right now I’m adding up and averaging the Carbon Emissions from my Environmental students, and I do not have that labeled as a spreadsheet. And I don’t really need it in the future, so I would go through and not keep it. I would go ahead and delete it. But right now, it’s nice to have the Untitled Spreadsheet so that we can discuss our carbon impact.
Then you’re going to take and do the exact same thing that we did with our desktop. Highlight every unsorted file that you have, and put it into a new folder titled Fall of 2022.
If you have time, and you’re sitting on your couch, watching some Hallmark movies, and you want to zone out a little bit further, you can always go back in and sort these into topics or units that you know they fit best into. But you’re kind of done using them for the year, probably. And if you’re not, they’re still searchable, but we’re able to clean up our entire space.
Digital Declutter: Unit Folders
One thing that I do with my unit folders is I actually try at the end of every unit to create a new sub folder. I highlight everything and I move it into a folder with that unit name on it. And honestly, my Unit Planning Kit is my most valuable organization device. Because as I go through my lesson plan, I include the hyperlinks to every document I could need, to every slide set that I have. And in the reflection notes, I also include things that I have found that I think would work in the future. It really acts as my own personal file system for now and in the future. And when I need to reference something from years past, I go back to that unit in the year past. I find my Unit Plan Kit with all of the things linked together that I had used before, or things that I wanted to get to and hadn’t yet. This is my number one document for so many reasons. But we can always talk about that another time.
Digital Declutter: Email Inbox
Next up, we’re going to tackle the email inbox. I know it feels like we’re flying frequently through this, but we have so many things to look at in our tech world, because it’s something that we have to rely on every single day. With your email inbox, you can run it one of two different ways. Some people let it just “cup overfloweth”, and others like to keep it trim and tidy. Well, no matter what, there’s going to be a day where you get overwhelmed with the outpouring of new things. I want to give you some of my favorite email tips that I’ve collected. Especially from my very first job where my boss didn’t like that I had 10 emails sitting in my inbox, and sent me to an email management course, where I learned some tips that they suggest you do for email. I don’t think they all apply for us in education, but some of it was a little interesting. Let’s cover some of those big tips here.
The first is that if it includes an event, or a task that needs to be completed, you automatically move that into a task list or an event on the calendar. Those two places are where all of that goes, and then you can delete the email. That’s the scary part for me. I don’t always like deleting it. You can move it into a folder if that makes you feel better, but you need to take care of that right then and there and get it off of your mind. That way it’s cleared and it’s out of the way when you’re addressing everything else.
Another thing I like to do when I get a little bit too overwhelmed with the unread email number, is I will go into my Gmail in the settings and you can click to put your unread emails first. It’s going to separate all of them out through your entire inbox to the very top, so you can click through and figure out what was important and what wasn’t. I found that I can’t really leave it this way because there are some times I read an email and I need to come back to it later, and that’s actually when I assign a different colored star to it. So you can favorite or “star” emails, but if you click through it, you actually have a whole rainbow, literally, of options for how you can start your email inbox, and then you can sort by those later.
So if you wanted to, you can assign red to be an urgent matter that you need to attend to that day. You could maybe assign orange to be something with a student that you need to respond to. Yellow could be parents. You could create your own little network of how you want your email inbox to be sorted. And then whenever you need to search for something in particular, you can search through just the color that you have flagged it under.
When it comes to your personal inbox, you probably have a lot of spam, like me and most other people. And if you get bothered by all of the notifications you get throughout the day of those emails coming in, one of my favorite ways to quickly decrease that little inbox unread number is to go top to bottom. See what the first email is of something that I would either like to unsubscribe from, or I know I have a whole lot from that company, from that marketer, from whatever it is, and I will just search their name. The first email, I would go through, and I would unsubscribe by clicking the bottom, usually hidden in the very bottom of the email. And then I’m going to select all, and delete.
That’s right, I just go through and delete all of them. If you go through and search a broad term like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, you’re probably going to get every single email you’ve ever received from something that you’re interested in, because they always link those things in it. So you want to be very careful about how you search terms. But going through and doing this with five to 10 different companies that are emailing you, it’s going to clear out your inbox every single time in a matter of minutes. And it is very satisfying.
This also works for regular emails you get from like your school secretary, or even regular emails that might be sent out automatically from your school or district. If you search those really quickly…I know I get an email every single day about absences in the building, and I don’t always open them because they don’t always really need my attention, but they’re there every single day. And if I let that go, that would be 180 emails at the end of the year that just feel cluttery. So instead, I can go through and use the same tactic, search my secretary’s name, and specifically the title of her email, which is absences. And that will help pop up just those emails that I need to delete.
And if you’ve used the “star” method and favorited them in different colors, you’ll know exactly which ones you actually need to keep, because you have given them some sort of priority.
And as a bonus tip, I really want you right now to go to your settings and set up an out-of-office for your winter break. Go ahead and set the start date, end date, and a short little message. It doesn’t have to be anything too much, saying, “Thank you so much for reaching out, however, I am out of the classroom until this date. I will gladly respond to you as soon as I can once that date has passed.” That way, you can kind of sit pretty and not feel obligated to check anything, anything, over break unless you really want to.
Alright, we’ve now tackled your desktop files for your downloads. Also your drive and how you can just clear that out of the way so that you can reference it later or organize it later if you want to. And then also ways to tackle, clear and organize your inbox.
Digital Declutter: Photos
So I just want to give you a little bonus one because I know a lot of us are taking a lot of photos. Now whether they’re in your classroom or not, your phone probably has quite a few.
Two of my favorite apps for photo organization are actually the Google Photo app… because did you know that it’ll sort it out by the person that it recognizes? I don’t know if iPhones do that, my Android doesn’t, but I think it’s so handy to be able to search back and find those old memories of a specific person.
I also love the Slide Box app. It’s a Tinder for your photos, basically. You create folders, and you can swipe up to delete. And I can go through four to 500 photos in under three minutes if I’m really focused on it. That’s going to help cut down on all those extra photos that you are afraid you might lose. Because then Google will back it up to your Google email account for you. Or if you’re also an Amazon Prime member, did you know that you have storage on Amazon Prime for your photos? That’s a fun little one to remember, too.
Digital Declutter: Apps
And speaking of apps, have you gone through, recently, and deleted ones that you don’t really use? I don’t just mean the ones that you actually create a little button for on your home screen, but like all of the ones in the background. Go into your apps manager and just delete the ones you know you haven’t touched in six to eight months.
For example, I have the Subway app on my phone from one time they ran one special. I don’t honestly remember the last time that I had a Subway sandwich. So I’m gonna go ahead and remove that from my phone. Also, if you did not get 8 million notifications from some of your shopping apps during the Cyber Monday, slash all week, Black Friday, month long adventures, then consider yourself lucky. But I went through and used that as a time to delete tons of apps that were over notifying me. If I need it again, honestly, downloading is not that hard, but it feels so good to get it out of my view for right now.
I hope that you took away some simple, digital decluttering tips for today. And I hope that you come back for Wednesday on our extra credit episode. Until next time,
5 Steps to Simplify Your To Do List
Unit Planning Kit
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Keywords: email, files, desktop, apps, photos, tips, inbox, folder, downloads, inbox