We are business owners and so we need to be online. An online presence is necessary for our visibility, but it also allows us to stay connected with our clients, customers, network, social contacts, and industry news.
Customer Service and customer experiences are two very important areas of our business that having an active online presence will allow us to deliver on a higher level, provided the systems and protocols are in place.
It’s said that we have become a society of multi-taskers and people lacking focus. In fact, our attention span has been compared to that of a goldfish. Not very complimentary, is it? Being online seems to diminish our attention span and if we allow it, it can take over our private lives.
So herein lies the dilemma. We need to stay connected and have an online presence, yet, being online can detract from our business, and intrude on our personal lives.
This is really digital clutter. How can we digitally declutter so that we stay sane, avoid burnout, yet take advantage of the opportunities being online affords us?
Ways to Approach Digital Decluttering
You can approach digital decluttering in a few different ways:
- Begin slowly. Take a few of the tips below and start to incorporate them into your daily life.
- Start with one tip then move on to another when you feel you’ve mastered the first one.
- Take the old “cold turkey” approach and unplug from everything social, with the exception of work, and gradually add back those elements you truly enjoy and you can manage without allowing them to take over your life and sabotage your business.
Regardless of your approach, take time to evaluate how much of an impact digital clutter is making on you, and analyze how you can regain some of your time freedom.
Tips for Digital Decluttering
- Turn off notifications. Those chimes are distractions that prevent you from focusing on your task at hand, and you away from your work or your family and friends. Whatever is causing the distraction will still be there; just deal with it in your own time frame.
- Limit your social profiles. Do you really need to be on every platform available? Eliminate those that you rarely use. Identify which ones you use for personal fun and those you use for business. Eliminate those that have a high learning curve or that your audience rarely uses. Your goal should be to hang out on the platforms where your ideal clients are for business. No matter what the gurus tell you, even if your ideal clients are on several platforms, they are going to spend the bulk of their time on one or two. You want to position yourself as an authority on just those one or two so you can hear their concerns and offer solutions or support.
- Deep clean your list of followers on social media. Do you know these “friends” in real life? Are they business associates? Have you ever interacted with them online? Be smart with your social followings.
- Decide what type of news you want in your social media feeds. Negative news, political rants, or news that go against your core beliefs distract and affect your mood are not what you want to be in your social media feed. You are in complete control of who you allow on your feed so exercise your right to unfollow or unfriend those who add too much negativity.
- Declutter your email. Gmail makes life easier with their tabs and their labels system, but you still need to implement processes to keep that inbox manageable. Consider hiring a VA to manage that task for you. Set up filters to send certain types of messages straight into folders and remember to check those folders daily.
- Implement a “touch it or trash it” system for your email. Look at your emails and then decide if you need to: take action, save it, or trash it. No clicking out of the message and letting it sit in your inbox indefinitely. Take an action right there by answering the email, putting it in a digital folder, or deleting it.
- Clear out the photos from your phone on a weekly or monthly basis. How many people do you know who have lost precious photos when they dropped or lost their phones? Backup those photos to the cloud automatically on a regular schedule. Not only will those memories be saved but you’ll also free up enormous amounts of space on your phone. Remember that if you’re using an an Android phone, Google allows you a certain amount of free data and your photos count in the storage amount. “Every Google Account starts with 15 GB of free storage that’s shared across Google Drive, Gmail, and Google Photos.”
- Create a social media calendar. Staring at a blank screen with no idea what to post wastes just as much time as scrolling while thinking of what to post. With an editorial calendar filled out, you know exactly what you’ll post and when. Better yet, delegate this task to your VA so all you have to do is respond to questions or comments after the post is published.
- Declutter your hard drive. Do you really need those marketing reports from 8 years ago? Chances are that information is out of date, so delete those old files. A cluttered hard drive also impedes your productivity, often because you can’t find files quickly. Implement a filing system for your digital files so you can find necessary files quickly and easily without wasting precious time.
- Clear out the icons on your desktop screen. Not only do all the extra “shortcuts” slow your computer’s start up capabilities, it will immediately bombard your brain with extraneous images, most of which serve little purpose. Sweep all those icons into a folder to sort through at a later date. Whatever program shortcuts you eliminate, be sure to physically delete that program from your control panel. Now you can start your workday more calmly.
- Avoid using electronics before bedtime. Your brain needs time to slow down and decompress, especially after a stressful day. Even on regular days your brain is overloaded with the constant stimuli from your computer and your phone; plus, the blue light rays can affect your sleep patterns, making you feel tired in the morning instead of well-rested. Shut them off at least one hour before bed. Read a book, meditate, or listen to calming music instead.
- Backup your data regularly. Even if this sounds counterintuitive to decluttering, keeping a backup of your important information can be a life saver in case of a breach or other emergency. Create a backup before you start deleting information off your computer or phone. Store this backup in the cloud and perform these backups regularly once your digital decluttering is complete.
- Set a limit on the number of browser tabs you open. Just because your computer CAN open 25 tabs at once doesn’t mean it should! You’ll likely find your computer working more slowly or even crashing from the strain of having so many browser windows open. Limit yourself to 4-5 tabs to limit distractions and then close them up when your task is complete. If you’re afraid of forgetting the URLs for closed tabs, bookmark them in your browser or save them in a notepad file for later use.
- Unplug for the weekend. This is easier said than done for many people who have become so attached to their devices, they feel the need to check emails (in case they miss a request from a client), or something else. The reality is that your business will survive, and your body will thank you for the decrease in stimuli. Go one step further and unplug every evening so you can focus on your family, relax with a new hobby, or simply learn how to decompress and enjoy the quiet.
- Stick to the time you set to leave your office. This one is for me or for anyone else like me. Earlier tonight I took a break to watch something on television with my husband. I wanted to get this blog post written tonight, so am in my office much later than I should be. Anyone else like me out there who just wants to get one last thing done, even though it’s late? We have something to work on. Let’s connect and hold each other accountable.
There is no question, clutter decreases productivity. It takes conscious effort and time to make digital decluttering a priority. The benefits are tremendous and by taking action and implementing the foregoing, you’re opening up yourself and your business to a more productive life as you regain lost time and increase profitability.