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Managing Electronic Clutter

file box could hold 3000 decisions

If a box can contain 3000 decisions (500 pieces of paper in a ream and 6 reams in a file box generally and each piece could be a decision you have to make (keep, toss, or take action).

how many decisions can your phone, computer, tablet hold?

How many decisions could you have on your phone, tablet, computer or in the cloud?

Three actions you can take to manage the electronic clutter in your life:

Unsubscribe to email newsletters & notifications you haven't read in the last 3 months. Start with the next email you are about to pass over because you don't have the time to read it — again. Open it and find the unsubscribe link by searching for the term "unsubscribe" (click Ctrl + F on your PC or Command-F on a Mac). Or scroll to the bottom of the email, it's usually there.

Unsubscribe to at least one email each time you open your Inbox. Don't keep them coming "just in case" or because "someday you'll have the time to read it". If you find the time, you'll probably be reading other emails. Be strong and unsubscribe now.

Filter your messages. You can use filters (or rules) to automatically move emails into different folders instead of dumping them directly into your Inbox. You can create folders for individual senders (your cousin who sends only jokes or Dhucks' Tips & Tricks) or for groups ( a book club or volunteer group). I find automatic filters are best for those emails that aren't time sensitive since I may not check these folders every day. If you are unsure of how to set up a filter or rule, go to your email's Help section.

Take time to clear your Inbox, Desktop, and note taking app. If you get overwhelmed by your Inbox, Desktop, or the number of notes in your Evernote app, make it a weekly habit to clear out the old and unused. Set a day and a time that you can and will spend 10-15 minutes clearing the clutter. This time is not for responding to emails but about clearing your Inbox or Desktop.

Or the next time you're at the dentist's or standing in line, use those minutes to clear the delayed decisions on your smartphone. Check of those tasks you've completed, delete the notes you no longer need, and trash those emails you don't want.

This suggestion is assuming that your Inbox or Desktop is causing you concern. I am a strong visual person so I use my Inbox to show which emails are awaiting further action (not just storing them there) and I use my Desktop for files I routinely access or am currently working on. If you want all your email left in your Inbox or never put anything on your Desktop in the first place (like my husband) then there is nothing to fix — it ain't broke.

Want more tips and tricks to cut down on electronic clutter? Go to Three Ways to Cut Down on Electronic Clutter. Or check out how Email Affects Productivity.

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