How to Declutter Your Online Space and Free Up Your Mind
I did not originally plan to share this post today. It may be a no-brainer to some, but it’s absolutely essential that you regularly declutter your online space. Yesterday I had a slew of projects I wanted to work on. Instead of crossing off tasks on my to-do list I became overwhelmed by the utter chaos that was my online space.
My inboxes were overflowing, my files were everywhere and I was constantly scrolling through an endless feed of unfamiliar people. There was a severe disconnect between my current values and what I was seeing every day on my laptop.
To combat that I threw my typical daily routine out the window and spent time figuring out how to focus my online space. I haven’t gone through the entire thing since it’s a lot to take on in one shot. Still, I’ve started working on it and piece by piece it’s making a difference. I hope these 7 tips will help you be able to declutter your online space and free up your mind too!
Manage Your Files
You probably go in and out of the files on your computer more than anything else throughout your day. Tackling this is where you should start but, fair warning, it may also take the longest time to complete.
I’ve always had countless files on my computer but ever since I started blogging those files have quadrupled! To keep organized I make sure I create file names that make sense and place files in the appropriate folders. I have a whole hierarchy set up to make finding any file a breeze.
My problem isn’t managing my files, it’s holding onto files that I no longer need and are no longer relevant to me. As a blogger and creative, I sign up for newsletters and download freebies. I also create at least a handful of new graphics each week to go along with my posts and anything else I happen to be working on.
Do I really need a graphic I made for a Pinterest board two years ago? No.
Do I need a workbook that I downloaded but never used? No.
I needed to get rid of files that were just taking up space and collecting dust. I use Google Drive and sometimes Dropbox for my files. They’re both free but they have a limit as to how much you can store without paying. It’s best that if you’re going to use services like this that you don’t hold onto files you really don’t need.
Sort through the files on your computer and in the cloud. Determine if you still need them or if they’re just eating up space.
Reevaluate Who You Follow
I follow a lot of people on social media and I’m sure you do too. On Instagram alone I currently follow 1.4K+ people which I know is only going to increase with time. With the addition of Instagram Stories and the changes to the algorithm, it has become increasingly clear to me exactly how many people I follow and how many people I don’t even remember following.
It would be impossible for me to see all 1.4K people I follow in my feed each week. The new algorithm has shifted my feed dramatically and I now tend to see the same 20 or so accounts on a daily basis. I have my issues with that but that’s another topic for another day. However, even though my feed has shifted to show more of the accounts I frequently interact with the Insta Stories feed just shows everyone.
Now, if there is someone who you want to continue to follow but you don’t want to see their Stories you can mute them. After a while, however, I found that quite a few of the accounts I saw were of people I didn’t even remember following.
So, I logged into my trusty Crowdfire and went through all of the people that I currently follow. Going through 1K+ accounts took time but I was able to see there were at least a few hundred accounts that I didn’t like, didn’t know or didn’t care about. I was also able to see people who had recently played the “follow you then unfollow you” game and I promptly got rid of them as well.
EDIT: Crowdfire is no longer supported by Instagram but other apps offer the same thing.
Declutter your online space by making a habit of sifting through the accounts you follow across social media.
Unsubscribe From Newsletters
I know that I’m advocating for a lot of unfollowing but in order to declutter your online space it’s a step that can’t be avoided. It might seem counterintuitive to have a newsletter, offer opt-in cheat sheets, wallpapers, and even a free course (shameless plug) but then tell you to go unsubscribe from someone else.
I’m not saying that what everyone else is offering is trash because that’s simply not true. What I am saying, however, is that we’re bombarded with a lot of information on a daily basis. It’s imperative that you only invite people in that are going to provide value and not stress. I only want people to subscribe who enjoy seeing my little dose of creative woo-woo in their inbox. Not someone who would just see my email as yet another thing they have to sift through.
Find out which emails are no longer providing value to you and quickly unsubscribe.
Organize Your Inbox
A lot of people check their email when they first wake up. I’m sure you don’t want to start your day feeling overwhelmed, stressed and frazzled. Instead, lighten your email load by using folders. There are a few regular emails that I forward to separate folders so that they skip the main inbox altogether. For example, mailing list updates, Disqus comments, and payments all get separated and squared away.
When there are fewer things in your main inbox it becomes easier to address urgent requests. You can see exactly what emails need to be handled first, which ones can be saved for later and you can identify spam faster.
Declutter your online space by forwarding some of the emails you regularly receive into separate folders.
Turn off notifications
I’m still working on this one but I’ve significantly decreased the number of notifications I used to have on my phone and laptop. It’s a distraction. Notifications are built to keep you in the know but what they actually do is take you out of the now. (Click to Tweet)
If you’re focused on writing a post or taking a walk and your phone keeps buzzing you’re not present. Sometimes when I eat a meal I spend more time addressing notifications than engaging with those around me. When I do decide to devote myself fully to the present hearing the buzzing on my phone can be nerve racking.
You want to remain connected to those around you but then you feel guilty for not addressing those pressing notifications. Maybe a brand emailed you back, someone commented etc.
You feel an obligation to “be on” all the time and address things as they happen. It’s too much.
Turn off notifications from apps that distract you and leave you feeling stressed and guilty.
Put Your To-Do List Away
I talk quite a bit about my to-do list. It just seems to be that thing that never seems to come anywhere close to being done. As soon as I plow my way through a few list items it seems like I have to add more.
My to-do list is both the bane of my existence and a source of joy. (Click to Tweet) I love the feeling of crossing off an item but I hate having the actual list staring back at me. The items that have been on there a little too long that were no big deal before are now daunting. I get more and more anxious about the things I haven’t done with each passing hour.
To combat this I exit out of the note app on my computer while I work on any given task. I also have a physical list so I’ll flip the list over and place it somewhere else. That way it’s not hanging over my head as much. It’s not the most sophisticated way of dealing with it but it’s helped.
Move your to-do list out of sight while you work on an individual task.
Close Open Windows & Tabs
This tip is in a similar vein to the last one. I know most people are juggling a lot of things at once online. You might have your email in one tab, a google doc in another, a few social sites, maybe H&M and that Thai place you’re about to order from. Or maybe that’s just me.
Still, even though I do think that you can effectively multitask I think it’s best that you don’t. It’s easier for me to write a post if I’m not distracted by the 8 other tabs that are open. If you absolutely need multiple tabs then I suggest you break them off into windows and then minimize them.
This is all about clearing your visual space. Seeing a ton of things all crammed into one area is bound to feel more stressful than if there are just 1-2 things visible.
Declutter your online space visually by closing extra windows and tabs that you are not currently using.
How do you declutter your online space?