Why organize your desktop? Having a neat computer desktop is the “clean your bed” of digital organizing. It’s the first thing you see when your computer wakes up, and it sets the tone for the day. If your desktop is cluttered with shortcuts and covered in files, the tone it sets is “stress,” which we at Organize to Excel are not fans of.
Here are my top 3 tips for keeping your desktop clutter free AND stress free.
Tip #1. Remove Unnecessary Shortcuts
When downloading new software, there’s usually a check box in the installation process that says, “Create Desktop Shortcut.” It’s often checked by default, and it’s easy to miss.
Now, creating a desktop shortcut is fine—IF you’re going to use a program frequently. In most cases, though, it’s better to go without. There are so many ways to open an app that don’t take up real estate on your desktop! You can do a Spotlight search on Mac, or for Windows just type the name of the program in the search bar on the bottom left of the screen.
You can even choose to automatically open applications you know you’ll need when the computer starts up.
Note that this is good to check out on a routine basis. Some programs will open on startup by default, even though you might not need them. Check your computer’s list of startup apps and de-select any that aren’t necessary. Your computer will be faster to wake up!
Check the description below for the links to show you how to access the programs that run on your computer’s start up.
We’ve talked about files, but what about organizing software? Don’t let your apps run wild, they need structure, too! Here are my methods for keeping your software easy to find, use, and keep track of.
Do them! Keeping your software up to date is important for three reasons:
Security: Software companies are always on the lookout for new ways to break their programs, and then change to make their systems less vulnerable. Security updates are extremely common, and updating on time means you’re as safe as possible.
Features: The latest stuff is always cooler, right? Don’t miss out on upgraded or more user-friendly features.
Complying with regulations: Just like with safety, software companies are on the lookout for new laws or policy changes that affect how their programs function. If you work in the healthcare industry, and your software isn’t up to date on the latest HIPAA regulations, you could be in some serious trouble!
Keep a Master List
If your computer goes kaput, the last thing you want to have to do is rebuild it from nothing. It’s the same when you purchase a new computer. Trying to remember what software your old computer had installed is brain-frying! This is where a master list comes in handy.
I love certain things for organizing physical items: clear stackable bins, shelving, and labels are tools that apply in just about every situation! It’s the same with digital organizing. There are some simply-must-have tools for digital organizing that I recommend anyone use to keep their computer neat and tidy.
A Password Manager
I can’t remember all of my passwords, can you? Making secure passwords requires capital letters, numbers, special characters, and sometimes a double-authentication PIN, too. And the amount of passwords we need—one for every site—means that trying to remember them is not only exhausting, it’s basically impossible. And what about when it’s time to update the password? A sticky note just can’t take care of it like it used to.
When I covered paper filing in the past, one of my top tips was, “The best way to keep track of paperwork is to make sure it never arrives in the first place!” But what about digital organizing?
Go digital when you can. Not only does it reduce paperwork that takes up physical space in your home, it reduces paper usage in general. Good stuff! At Organize to Excel, we aim to eliminate waste and help the environment wherever possible.
If (when!) you follow my advice about paperwork, you’ll end up with more digital files than paper ones. But if you don’t have a filing system in place on your computer, you’re just swapping paper clutter for digital clutter.
Here are my top 4 tips for digital organizing, keeping your computer files as neat and tidy as your physical ones.
1. Mimic Real Life
Would you throw your mail on the floor as soon as you brought it in the house? Do you file everything as “Important”? If you do, give us a call and we can help you straighten that out!
It doesn’t make sense to do these things, because all you’d get is a big pile of mail on your floor, and tons of time wasted spent searching for that one bill you kinda remember being in this pile…or is it this pile? Eek!
Physical clutter is more obvious than digital clutter because it’s in the way when you try to eat dinner at the table, or a tripping hazard in your hallway. And, you have to physically go through items one at a time. But digital clutter is real, and it’s costing you time and money you don’t need to spend.
Imagine your computer is a tiny filing cabinet. It needs labels, folders, and subfolders. It needs an internal logic, so the folders and subfolders are useful. If you think about digital files like they’re paper, it only makes sense to put them in some sort of order.
Maintaining organization is crucial! Your to-go kits or your laptop bag are only useful if you know how to (and actually do) maintain them. Here are some simple ideas to make sure your car or mobile workspace stay nice and tidy!
Purge your backpack: If you’re a hot-desker or use a coworking space, it’s best to pack light. But over time, paperwork, notes, and sticky notes can add up to a lot of clutter. I recommend that you purge your backpack, satchel, or laptop bag on a regular basis. If you let it go too long, purging might seem like a big task, but having a regular schedule keeps the task very manageable. Whether it’s once weekly or twice a month, keep track of when you purge your mobile workspace so you know when it’s time to get it all out and see what needs to go.
Have a home for everything: Decide where each item goes in your bag, and stick to it. If you keep your pens in the front pocket, make sure you put them back there when you’re done with them. Having a home for each item means that when it’s time to do a purge, you know where to put everything back. It’s much easier to find things when you need them, too!
Your car is an extension of your home, and many of the same rules apply when it comes to organization. You want to limit clutter, have a home for each item, and (most importantly) you want the space to be functional.
But the car is used for so many different tasks, it can be difficult to figure out what should stay, and what should go. You need different things when you go grocery shopping than you do on your way to the office, but how do you fit everything in at once?
The short answer is: you don’t!
A multi-use space
I recommend that my clients think of their car as a multi-use space, and just like any multi-use area in your home or office, it needs to be kept clean, tidy, and organized to be functional. Think about the different ways you use your car. Do you use it to go on grocery runs? Do you need to take the kids to and from school?
I’ll go into this in more detail next week, but the best way to make your car a multi-use space is to create to-go kits containing items that you need in specific situations. Instead of cramming everything you might need into your car at once, take just what you need with you when you go. And have a home for those kits in your garage or an easy to access closet so you can grab-and-go.