In this episode, I propose a three-phase approach to assessing our digital clutter…an initial step to understanding that just because we don't see it, doesn't mean it isn't there and isn't affecting our personal productivity.
In Episode 43, I talked about digital clutter, and the reality that we are compounding digital information about ourselves on our computers, laptops, mobile devices and the Web each and every day. So, what should we do about this digital clutter (some of which we don't even have control)? In this episode, I propose a three-phase approach to assessing our digital clutter…an initial step to understanding that just because we don't see it, doesn't mean it isn't there and isn't affecting our productivity.
I. Assess where you currently have data. (storage and likely majority of it is reference)
First, you have digital information hanging out on several devices if you start to think about it For example, whatever device you're listening to this podcast, which may be your computer, laptop, mobile tablet, or smartphone, you have stored information about yourself. This includes passwords, profiles or personal metadata and files. Think about where you interact daily, weekly, monthly and yearly. Visit your most often browsed websites, smartphone apps and electronics. Write them all down (or the ones with the most important information about you). You may want to write down next to them what information is stored and available to you.
II. Assess where you currently create data. (working memory type items)
Next, we need to assess where you currently create data. This may have begun in the first step as you realized that the places where you access information about you. However, you may have different applications at work and home that you regularly create data (think text documents, photos, video, and audio/music files). Don't stop there, though. If you volunteer, have a hobby, or work with analog data (vinyl records, microfiche, photo negatives and more), you may want to consider this part of your digital information. Also, don't leave out places that are temporary holding places for information, perhaps your desktop or in work-in-progress folders that may not be on backup drives or cloud storage accounts.
II. Assess where others are currently creating data for you. (inboxes)
Finally, applications, websites, financial institutions and more are collecting or collaterally making more and more information about you every day. This isn't to frighten you over privacy issues, but empower you to take control of that data, know where it is, and use it to your advantage should you desire. Review all the digital tools in your life and see whether or not they are creating information about you. If they are, take note of them and note if you can easily export or back up the data.
With your new current digital inventory, you will now have the knowledge to start purging, organizing and harnessing the power of your digital data.
In future episodes, I will talk about some strategies to reduce digital clutter.