Spring is traditionally when we think about tidying up and decluttering at home, which makes it the ideal time to also tackle putting our work life in order as well. But tidying and decluttering your digital space is just as important as decluttering your physical living space.
Over the last year there has been a huge increase in the use of connected digital devices due to the pandemic and lockdowns. And the more we use digital space (e.g. when working online from home), the more “virtual clutter” we create. This is bad news because virtual clutter distracts us, slows us down and makes us less productive.
Productivity is already a burning issue for UK companies. Recent research shows that the country’s productivity levels are 16 per cent below the average for the other members of the G7 group of industrial nations (ONS survey). The 2021 Budget also saw UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak announce a new £520m Help to Grow scheme to help small businesses increase their productivity.
So how can you best tackle this issue? We’ve put together the below tips to give you step-by-step actions that you, and your team, can take to declutter your digital space to become more focused and productive in work during 2021.
#1 – Tidy up your computer desktop
Research has shown that the average knowledge worker spends about 2.5 hours per day, or approximately 30 per cent of the working day, searching for information. If you have a messy office or desk space, you are going to end up wasting valuable working time searching for documents and information. The same goes for a messy computer desktop.
It will help if you start thinking of your computer desktop like you would your physical desktop – it’s important to keep it clean and tidy. Organising your desktop is also a great place to start when decluttering your virtual space. Go through all files and folders on your desktop and delete unneeded documents, file items you want to keep, then create folders for anything that doesn’t already have a designated place.
#2 – Clear your email inbox and embrace ‘inbox zero’
Following the so called ‘inbox zero’ approach is a great way to manage the digital clutter that accumulates in your email inbox. The goal is to keep your email inbox clear, archiving or deleting anything you don’t need to act on, whilst filing everything that does need action in its designated place.
You can start by deleting emails you don’t need anymore, as they have become bits of digital clutter that will slow you down and turn your attention away from the task at hand.
Sort your email inbox by the sender when trying to clear your inbox as being able to see numerous emails from the same person grouped together can make clearing things out much quicker. Just remember to change your sort order back afterwards.
Try to stick to ‘inbox zero’ in future by deleting all emails you don’t need, as you go.
#3 – Limit social media consumption
Social media is overwhelming. You can’t keep up with the speed of information and messages that are aimed at you. Think carefully about how to avoid it taking up too much of your time. For instance, you should only use the platforms where your community is most active, instead of being active on every social feed.
Purging is your best friend here. Write down all the groups and platforms you use and how they enhance your professional life. Then, deactivate or delete any that don’t add value. Be sure to spend time unfollowing any pages/groups that don’t benefit you too.
Don’t forget to limit notifications from social media to avoid being distracted. You can normally do this under your account settings and notifications.
#4 – Uninstall all unwanted apps and programs
Don’t be afraid to delete all the free apps and programs on your computer that you never use as they can slow you down and distract you from the task you’re focusing on. You can always download them again if you ever need them after this.
Too many apps promise to solve our stresses, but the choice and variety can slow us down. It’s much better to find a few apps that save you time and make you more productive, learn them thoroughly and keep using them.
Also remove excess applications on your dock or taskbar so you only see the shortcuts you really need, based on what you use the most at work.
Deleting unwanted apps and programs and only having the ones you really need on your taskbar will remove clutter and could increase computer speed as well.
At a time when increasing productivity is a priority for the UK’s small businesses, decluttering your virtual space now will help you become more focused and productive in work in 2021.
Dorothy Spira is head of community at productivity and organisation app Evernote