Physical clutter can damage your health. In a study done by the University of California Los Angeles, women who described their houses as cluttered, disorganized, disordered, or haphazard had daily patterns of the stress hormone cortisol that are normally associated with post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic fatigue, and early mortality. These women were also more likely to feel depressed.
If you’ve ever spent a morning trying to track down a lost file on your hard drive or searching through a decade of email, you know that digital disorder can also take a toll on your wellbeing. Most people handle a constant flow of text messages, emails, photos, videos, and other digital information. When all that digital data piles up, it can slow you and your devices down. Keep reading for a step-by-step guide to downsizing and organizing your digital clutter.
Keep reading more from Abby Quillen, as she shares how to organize digital clutter, including automating processes and organizing your digital past.
Do you use a digital organizer - or are you loyal to your paper planner? Digital calendars and planners have become both easier to use and to access. Smartphone apps put complex calendars literally in our purses and back pockets. The ability to access future commitments in seconds and have them graphically spread in front of us like artwork can be exciting, and possibly a bit overwhelming.
The most important consideration when choosing a planner is what feels natural to you and helps you best stay on track. As with paper planners, there are specific pluses and minuses to using digital calendars.
Digital Calendar Pros:
+ Lightweight, compact and portable
+ Can hold a TON of information
+ Can program for reoccurring events (i.e. weekly meetings)
+ Easily search for data
Digital Calendar Cons:
- Requires you to rely on device being charged (or find an outlet)
- Higher learning curve – must learn the program or app
- Can be challenging for people to use who are visual learners or who prefer the tactile feature of paper planners
My advice for starting out is the same as with paper planners – choose the simplest option, master it, and build upon that mastery as your needs change. A formula for organizational success!
Do you use a digital calendar on your smart phone/tablet/laptop/desktop computer? I’d love to hear what program and what you love about that program! Please comment below.
And do you know how to find them?
It’s a scary digital world for parents. There seems to be about as much control over kids’ accounts and digital information as control of the weather. So how do we keep our kids safe – and keep tabs on their accounts?
Know Your Rights
There are laws, as provided for by COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Act of 1998), that regulate what our kids are able to do online. It addresses such things as waiting until at least age 13 to get a Facebook account and prohibiting marketers from targeting kids younger than that age. But there is a whole lot of grey area – and we have a whole lot of things we need to do on our parts.
We have to ask ourselves this uncomfortable question: If something happens to my child (injury, illness, death), could I access my child’s technology?
Could you unlock the phone or laptop? Open emails? Find IDs and passwords for all social media accounts? The reality is that the law does not protect parents and their children. If you don’t have access now, tech companies aren’t necessarily going to give it to you if you need it. In recent years, parents have been battling, unsuccessfully, to access their kids’ accounts. So a platform like Facebook won’t allow you access to your child’s account in case of an emergency. They are just now rolling out options in the US for people to establish “Legacy” settings. The laws are behind the technology, and we have to take steps to organize our kids’ digital information.
Organizing Your Child’s Digital Information
Every family needs to find a method that works for the ages and responsibility levels of their kids. The point is to do something today so your child’s digital footprint doesn’t walk away from you.
It's not just our closets that need some shoe racks and our garages some deep cleaning. Our digital lives need as much attention to organization and efforts to wrangle in our chaos. This March we're going to tackle that world we don't necessarily like to remember exists - the one where our digital footprints are sometimes leading all over the place.
What is a Digital Footprint?
Every time you go online, send an email, or visit a webpage, you are leaving a digital trail full of digital footprints. Some of these trails are ones you choose to leave - like dropping breadcrumbs - while others are unintentional and you might not even know they are there.
Breadcrumb Trails: Examples include when you post on Facebook, write a blog, leave a comment for a product review, upload a picture or file, pay your bills online, and send emails. You intentionally leave these trails (even if we're not always thinking of it like that).
Unintentional Trails: Examples of these are data traces and information gathered about your search habits, online purchases, browsing history, and clicks on hidden links. These trails are the ones responsible for popping up adds in July on your Facebook news-feed based on what you shopped for last Christmas.
The Denver Post performed a survey which revealed that 75% of US adults who searched for information about themselves online found unfavorable results. Those are the footprints we don't want to leave behind. Maybe that political rant you posted (tempting some days), or that picture from the family reunion - you know the one.
Types of Digital Footprints
You leave different kinds of footprints, with different kinds of information. Let's divide these into three general categories.
Digital Organization - More than Shoe Racks
Wouldn't it be nice if we could just invest in some amazing shoe racks and our digital footprints would be organized and present the best versions of us online? But just like our closets won't clean themselves, even with sparkling new shoe racks, we have to continuously take steps to keep our digital footprints leading in the right direction.
And yes, it is exhausting. And terrifying. Especially if you have kids and you have to worry about their digital footprints, too. We're going to take it one step at a time. We'll cover those three categories of digital footprints and give you tips along the way for organizing your data. So wiggle your toes and get ready to jump in - feet first. Next week is all about digital management and password protection.
Do you ever wish you could go back in time because you just know that you saw that email as it drifted to your inbox, but you have no idea what happened to it after that? Our final February blog covers how to find those lost emails we've saved for future reference.
A significant 59% of middle managers say they miss valuable digital information EVERY day because they can't find it or don't see it. The fewer incoming emails there are the easier it is to pick out the relevant info vs. being inundated every time we check email (and I'm hoping we aren't doing it 36 times an hour but are sticking to our Email Budget!).
It all starts with stemming the tide of incoming emails by practicing the skills we've talked about earlier in the month.
Go back to the future, and have all the emails you need. But how?
Categorize incoming email correctly. How do we categorize correctly? By naming files and folders in a way that make sense to us as individuals. Take a minute to ask yourself the following questions:
Catchy title, eh? Graymail are emails we "opt in" to receive, but aren't really interested in reading. Think about checking out at a retail store and they ask you for your email address - YEP, that's "opting in" for advertising solicitations from that store. Also known as "Bacn" (as in bacon) because it is generally considered more desirable than spam, this collection of emails can fill your Inbox menu, but are they really what you ordered?
What is Graymail?
A fairly decent chunk of the emails coming to our inboxes each day - 19% - are considered spam and graymail. We all know spam. Those subject lines telling us we've won a million dollars in return for a small deposit. And we have spam filters in place to eliminate it. Graymail, however, enters a grayer area. We've acquiesced to receiving it the minute we give out our email address to anyone! Think about email newsletters, Groupons, grocery store advertising - those are all examples of graymail - specific advertising targeted to you, the lovely consumer!
Is some of the graymail relevant? Yes! It's targeted at our interests. Have I ever made a purchase due to graymail I've received? Another resounding YES! Of course!
What Do I Do About Graymail?
My recommendation? Use the unsubscribe button at the bottom of graymail (often in very tiny print) to remove yourself from mailing lists that don't interest you. I did this every day for one week - instead of just hitting "delete" or letting the graymail linger in my Inbox adding additional stress.
I've done these steps, and the result? I get MUCH less email! Another bonus? I've gotten faster about making the decision as to whether individual emails are worth my time, even the time it takes to click "Delete". I love it!
Try it for a week and let me know how it goes. Do you have another way to decrease your email? I'd love to hear about it!
Continuing our February Email theme (not love, silly) I bet you can guess what the average worker does 36 times an hour....I can hardly believe this myself, but yes, checks his/her email!!! That, my friend, is a lot o' email checkin'! Not only that, but we send/receive about 105 emails a day. That means 38,325 emails in a year. Yowza.
Why do we do that? It's like we've been trained to jump at the sound of the incoming mail and respond immediately - channeling Pavlov's dogs and Classical Conditioning. Based on the information from last week's blog, we know that refocusing after an interruption takes MORE time than staying focused and finishing the task at hand. It's not just emails - it's texts, tweets, dings, dongs, insties, selfies - the list goes on.
What's a person to do? Utilize the Email Budget we talked about last week - and have it in writing, even on a post it note by your computer, to help you stick to it. Can't imagine only checking your email twice a day? Try for once an hour. Aim low, and achieve! You can tweak the plan as you go along and tailor it for success.
One final note. Please don't check your email first thing in the morning. Oh yes, we get a great feeling of accomplishment by whittling down that inbox that popped up overnight, while the rest of our paperwork and phone calls continue to pile up around us. Emails will wait - I promise. They can be very patient, lurking in files and folders for years.
What can you do in 10 or 15 minutes? I'm thinking most of us can cram quite a bit into that small time frame if we're committed to it. I've lectured, oops I mean blogged, about the inefficiency of multi-tasking, which we've all been convinced is the best way to use our time.
There is a frenzy in our computers and on our smartphones and tablets - the endless supply of emails streaming into our inboxes. It takes 10 - 15 minutes to refocus on a project after an email interruption. Multiply that by the 36 times the average worker checks his/her email and we've got a serious time deficiency on our hands. It is time to tame the email frenzy and get back on track.
What to do, what to do? How about WE control the email instead of the email controlling us, like the saying the tail wags the dog vs the other way around? We don't even need fancy technology to do this! Start by setting an "Email Budget".
Don't have any idea how much time email is taking up in your life? Try an app like MyMinutes (IOS) or RescueTime (Android) that run in the background and track your activity. I promise you, it's a real eye opener! I would love to hear from you, too. Take less than 1 minute to add your voice to our poll, and see how much time others are spending on email, too.
Be sure to stop by next week for....Using your Email Budget effectively.
Welcome to August....and National Immunization Awareness Month - which goes hand in hand with back to school readiness! Now, I don't want to debate whether immunizations are necessary or not - each camp has its right to its opinion. For those who do choose to immunize, keeping records of immunizations shouldn't be just a shot in the dark.
Whether we're talking about your toddler or you are tracking your own healthcare (yep - adults get immunizations, too!), knowing where to find those records is important. Schools and sport teams need access to this information. Adults have their own lists of immunizations, too, for the shingles vaccine and more, and you never know when you're going to need access to this information on short notice.
When my kids were younger we got little booklets to record the type and date of immunizations, as well as the name of the Dr. who gave them. I kept them in the file cabinet under each of their names, along with other medical information.
In the digital age, we have a plethora of options! Parents can use the little booklet the Drs are still handing out, or use an online printable like the ones provided by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - they can be printed out or saved as a PDF and filed as such. And, of course, there are many apps for tracking immunizations, such as Shots (love the logo with the needle - NOT!). The Shots app has the complete set of vaccine schedules from the CDC, along with up to date information about risks, adverse reactions, contraindications, etc.
No matter how you choose to record immunizations, remember WHERE you keep them, and keep them up to date. Healthcare record keeping shouldn't be a shot in the dark!
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Tammy Schotzko is a Certified Professional Organizer who