What is the silliest impediment to efficiency? It is keeping old stuff around long after it is of no use to you. Every time you want to do some work, old documents or old code get in your way. They demand your attention and exercise your memory. They exact a small tax, adding up over time to a huge waste.
The most common time-wasting types of clutter are:
- Saving every new item onto your desktop: Some people have everything from financial documents to cake recipes on their desktop. They also do a terrible job of naming the documents and waste time whenever they want to find a document. Nowadays, you can get more lost, as files are saved by default in the Documents or Downloads folders. I have found it much easier to manage if I manually create a folder off the root of the drive, and save documents in well-organized folders. I prefer this to the default “Users” folder settings in Windows Vista as there are no unnecessary folders when I create them.
- Not clearing your Inbox: When all your emails lie in your Inbox, it is very difficult to easily understand what emails you have responded to and which ones are pending. It is easy to miss important emails. To avoid that problem, some people create filters to redirect emails to certain folders, but then they overdo it, and end up with folders that are never looked at frequently enough.
These problems do not go away by using a search tool like Google Desktop Search, because searching also takes time each time you want to find a document. Search tools can remove the discipline of deleting files, so you may even have different copies of files, or similarly named files. So when the search brings up results, you have to open every document to understand which is the right one.
There is always the danger of trying to do too much and spend unnecessary effort in house-keeping. But for most people, the opposite is true. They do too little and get buried under loads of digital information. With typical hard disks running into hundreds of gigabytes now, the problem keeps increasing. So, there is no time to waste. Start to clean your digital house today. Delete files you don’t need. Move or hide what you have already processed and do not need for the near term.
As for non-digital clutter like paper, first learn to organize your digital information and then digitize everything else. Once you have everything digitized, organized and on the cloud, you will be pleasantly surprised to see how much more efficient you are, and how light you feel by removing the information burden from your head.
[Photo licensed from Rev Dan Catt]