A few weeks back we wrote about de-cluttering your email’s inbox. Today we’ll tackle your desktop.
Your digital desktop is like your physical desktop. A screen filled with file icons is like a desk with massive piles of paper. The main issue with disorganization like this, is not being able to use the information that you’ve already created. If you are funded by grants, for example, there are times when you are called upon to provide data and collecting it takes time. Or, if you want to apply for a grant or an award, you will need to support your application. Curating your own information should not be a timely or overwhelming task.
Clutter, both digitally and physically, can cause an ambiguity effect. That is, when something seems ambiguous, we avoid it.
How do you know your information is cluttered? Because you:
- Can’t find stuff
- Can’t understand it even when you do find it
- Stuff is stored in scattered locations
- Poor memory of what you have and where it is
- Low level of compliance with policies or laws (highly relevant if you are incorporated or a registered charity)
- Can’t bring together the complete story of an issues, project, or event.
Here are seven steps to clear desktop clutter:
- Start by identifying the different themes or functions of your work.
- Each function needs its own folder.
- Within each folder are sub-folders and files.
- Everything that has to do with that function must be housed within the corresponding folder.
- Title all folders and files a name that describes what it contains.
- Each folder must be mutually exclusive –that means only contain information about one thing, it must be exclusive from the other folders. And each folder must be collectively exhausted –that means everything must have a place. (It is so much easier to put things away when you know where they go).
- Start dragging and dropping.
The digital filing system needs to mirror the paper filing system and email.
Organizing your information will help avoid over-retention and clutter, save time, and prevent duplication.
When I am very busy, I tackle work by cleaning up my desk, and then making a list of what I must get done. Starting by organizing allows me to clear clutter; not just physically, but mentally as well. It becomes much easier to see work and priorities clearly. This is the basic principle behind information management. When information is organized, it can be presented in a way that facilitates learning, comprehension, and decision making. When information is saved haphazardly, either in hard or soft copy, it doesn’t get used. Disorganized documents cause work to be duplicated and time to be wasted.
Adopting an easy to use information management system will help avoid over-retention, clutter, and prevent duplication and time spent searching for information.
Here are 5 steps to get started:
- Scraps of paper with notes are little bits of your organization’s knowledge. Do not lose them if they contain valuable information. Capture it in way that makes sense for you.
- Your inbox and desktop are the digital versions of your physical desk. An inbox with hundreds (or dare I say, thousands) of emails is like a desk with a massive stack of paper. It will take so much time to get any information out of that stack. Delete or store the messages and documents accordingly.
- We all save documents, like interesting articles, to read at a later time. If you never read them, stop saving them. If you really want to start reading them, set aside time each week just for this purpose.
- Give documents a title that describes what they are and why you are saving them. Each name should not duplicate the sub-folder preceding it.
- Find out what your legal obligations are: Depending on how your organization is registered, there may be regulations regarding records management that you must adhere to. Find out what must (and what must not) be kept and whether there are any regulations regarding storage and retrieval.