In my previous article on digital minimalism, I showed you how to set up, declutter and organize your electronic devices as a highly organized minimalist. In addition, I will do the same for all your files, emails and internet accounts in this follow-up post.
Organize Your Files
Let’s start with the biggest task ahead – sorting your batch of unorganized files. Yes, it seems daunting, but now is the time to finally push through and get it done. Trust me, you’ll feel infinitely better afterwards.
Take the following steps:
- Where to save your files? There is no need to make it complicated. After all, every device has a Documents folder. This is the perfect spot for your all files. You can also store your files with an online cloud service (e.g. iCloud, Dropbox…). If so, create a Documents folder there. Either way, gather ALL your digital files and dump them in this folder for now.
- Delete obsolete files. Next, thoroughly review your files. Be honest and only keep those files which you truly need to keep (e.g. tax returns…). Delete everything else.
- Sort files in subfolders. You can also create subfolders for your files. For example, I have folders for my taxes, insurances, home, car, weapon registration documents, work and files concerning my daughter. However, don’t create too many subfolders either. After all, the aim is to quickly retrieve the information you need. Now sort and move every file to its appropriate subfolder.
- Rename files. Do you know what ATR49568-25.pdf is about? Neither do I. Therefore, take the time to properly rename each file. Again, don’t make it complicated. Forget about adding dates and all that stuff – that info is often contained in the meta-data of each file anyway. Instead, keep it short and simple. For example, “University Degree, Curriculum Vitae, Car Insurance Policy…”
- Apply category tags. I also create specific category tags. It will make categorizing and searching for documents easier. I use the following tags: work, home, information, finances, projects, important, and health. Subsequently apply these tags to each relevant file. For example, you want an overview of every file dealing with finances, like your taxes or bills? Click on the finances tag. Done.
- Backup! You know about Murphy’s Law, right? So regularly create backups of your sorted documents on external (encrypted) USB thumb drives. It takes just a couple of minutes, but it will save you a lot of problems later.
- Review. Create a good habit by repeating the second step until the fifth step about once a week. This ensures that your files remain decluttered and organized.
Bonus Tip! Images, music and videos typically have their dedicated folders too. Apply the same sorting method for these.
Manage Your Email
I adopted the Inbox Zero concept years ago to manage my email. And it worked wonders for my productivity. As the name implies, I have no emails left in my inbox at the end of each day. It is awesome.
Here’s how I achieve this:
- Limit email management. Only open your mailbox once or twice per day – for a maximum of 10-20 minutes – to deal with your emails. Schedule these moments in your calendar. Keep your mailbox closed for the rest of the day. The result? No more distractions and disrupted workflows, but a more productive workday instead.
- Create an archive folder. Most email clients already have a built-in archive folder. If not, create one. Make sure that this folder is properly and automatically synchronized with your other devices.
- Sort emails using ADAD method. To actually manage and sort my emails, I use the Act, Delegate, Archive & Delete (ADAD) method:
- Act. Received an email with a specific question or task for you? Answer the question immediately, while you put the task on your to-do list. Then archive or delete the email.
- Delegate. Received an email that requires an action or response from someone else? Forward it to the individual in question if he/she is not already included in the original mail. Then archive or delete the email.
- Archive. All emails that you need to store temporarily or indefinitely go in this folder. Be very selective and only keep the truly important emails. Also regularly review your Archive folder. Find emails that no longer fit this category? Then delete them.
- Delete. Junk mail? Emails which are no longer relevant or needed? Delete them at once.
Now enjoy your decluttered mailbox and the increased productivity!
Bonus Tip! Unsubscribe from all mailing lists and newsletters. Just remain subscribed to those which add value to your life – like mine!
Manage Your Internet Accounts
Like most people, you have likely accumulated many online accounts on a variety of websites. For example, you have multiple accounts on several internet forums, online webshops, and service providers…
Be honest. How many of these do you still use? Are you still buying from that webshop? Still posting on that particular forum? Why do you still have an account with that old service provider when you switched to a new one months ago?
So decide which accounts you no longer need and use. Then login for a final time on these obsolete accounts, go to your profile settings, and delete them. If you cannot remove your account yourself, contact the website’s administrator and ask them to delete it for you.
You will now have reduced your digital footprint, and have less accounts and passwords to manage. In other words, you reclaimed some of your privacy.
Bonus Tip! While you are at it, clean up and re-organize your bookmarks as well. Only keep those for websites you actually visit daily. The rest is just one inquiry on a search engine away…
Tackling Social Media
It is finally time to tackle that special category of internet accounts – your social media.
My advice is very simple. Delete all of them.
Facebook, Twitter, etc. are tools that are specifically designed to exploit the psychological weaknesses of the human mind. And the more time you spend on them, the more money these companies gather by selling your personal information. After all, you are NOT the client of these companies – you are the product. Don’t trust them.
So free yourself from these parasites and get rid of your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts – and even the pro-free speech social network Gab! There’s NOTHING of value to be found on those “social” platforms. On the contrary, they are poison for your soul and are filled to the brim with extremely self-absorbed morons.
Stop wasting your time. I promise you that the benefits of deleting your social media will far outweigh the cons.
You will feel happier, calmer, and more relaxed. You will also be less distracted and instead regain incredible focus and concentration. And you will have more free time for all that truly matters – like spending time with your family and forming real, personal connections.
In fact, these two new books are great resources on social media addiction (and how to solve it):
- “Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World” by Cal Newport.
- “Monk Mode” by Victor Pride.
I highly advice you to check them out and take the first steps to a more productive and fulfulling life.
Take care and until next time.
This article is part of a series on digital minimalism. Find the other chapters here: