How to Declutter Your Digi-Life

Declutter Your Digi-LifeIf you’re anything like me, you’re a big fan of screenshots.

And downloads.

And iPhone pics.

And Google doc brainstorms.

Aaaaand you haven’t taken time to organize ANY of the above in recent (or long-term) memory.

This post is an intervention.

For both of us.

TRUST me, I get it: Taking time to declutter digital files is NOT a sexy gig. It doesn’t provide an immediate, direct return on investment like creating a new offer and having conversations with potential clients + customers.

(That’s one reason I’ve resisted it for so long!)

That said, taking time to declutter your files can and WILL free your mind to create and connect with more clarity and confidence (because you’re not letting great ideas fall through the Google Drive cracks or spending precious time searching for a screenshot you never named).

Think about it.

You probably don’t let your physical space fill up with junk, throwing your pencils in the silverware drawer, letting ten months of mail pile up on your kitchen counter, or storing your finest jewels in the couch cushions, right?

Then WHY do we do (the equivalent of) that with our digital spaces?

Just like physical clutter, digital clutter can seriously affect your spirits and productivity.

And when you’re on a mission to bring value to the world (as you are), ain’t nobody got time for THAT.

It’s time to take control of your digi-life and give yourself the fresh, streamlined workspace you (+ your creativity) need to thrive.

Let’s do this.

NOTE: If you’d like to skip to the practical takeaways + my tips for decluttering, you have my full blessing to scroll right past the video below. It’s not a typical Nikki video with concise, actionable tips. It IS almost 30 minutes of video chaos with business advice (+ sprinkler attacks) sprinkled in. In non-strategic Periscope form.

If, on the other hand, you WOULD like to see what my real life is like (juggling “work” + mamahood), get your popcorn ready. I’m really only including this “bonus” video as entertainment for YOU ;)

If you’re in the “of COURSE I wanna see that!” camp, prepare for:

  • the signs + symptoms of a digi-clutter problem
  • the tools I’m currently using to take control of my digi-mess
  • the cutest “soaping wet” salute you’ve ever seen
  • rather unflattering camera angles followed by a BEAUTIFUL Hawaiian sunset

ALSO (couldn’t have planned this if I’d tried!) – in the last couple minutes of the recording, you’ll see the pop-up notice that my disk (laptop storage) was almost full. HA! #digihoarderproblems on PARADE.

Proof that the struggle is real.

Click below to watch (or take a listen…ideally why you’re renaming the screenshots from your desktop):

NOTABLE HIGHLIGHTS:
8:20 | The moment I accidentally shared our new baby’s gender (before I’d announced it to the world ;))
15:20 | The start of “Colors” + subsequent salute from little man
27:08 | The bottom line summary of my big biz mistake (cluttering) + its very simple fix (decluttering)

IN A (COCO)NUT SHELL

THE BIG MISTAKE

NOT keeping my files named, organized, and backed up as I create them (or even two years later).

 

THE SIMPLE FIX

Take an honest look at your digital office and make a plan to get it organized.

 

HOW (+ WHAT) I’M ORGANIZING

GOOGLE DRIVE

I’m going through the entire drive and making a list of what kind of files I’ve got in there (i.e. brainstorms, to-do lists, PDF copy, old 1:1 session docs, spreadsheets for tracking stats, editorial calendars, new program + offer ideas, email sequence copy for a particular promo, etc.)

Once I’ve got the list, I’ll make general folders of categories, and I’ll either a) file ’em away, or b) DELETE what I don’t need anymore.

Since Drive (like my Gmail inbox) is all searchable, it’s not a top priority to get this one SUPER-organized – so the plan above will be “good enough” for now :)

 

DROPBOX

Dropbox is a great place to store files you mostly need for reference (not for editing + updating – those are better off in Google Drive).

If you haven’t invested $99 annually to upgrade to Dropbox’s 1 terabyte storage plan, I hiiiiighly recommend you do so ASAP.

Amy Porterfield is my Dropbox hero. When I watched her video on her OWN filing system last year (via her Profit Lab program bonus), I fell in l.o.v.e….and didn’t take action on it til over a year later. #learnfrommymistakesplease

One great thing about Dropbox is that you can connect it to both your computer AND your phone – and you get to pick what your folders sync to – either both your computer AND the cloud, or just the cloud. (ex. I plan to move my bigger files that I don’t use often to JUST the cloud to save storage space on my Macbook.)

Amy prioritizes her folders by adding numbers to their titles so that the ol’ alphabet doesn’t dictate your priorities, and I love that method too!

Examples:

1 Programs (then within that folder you’ve got folders for each of your offers)

2 Admin

3 Photos

BONUS TIP: Create your filing system by first creating a Google Doc “treasure map” you (or your assistant) can reference when filing things away. Amy organizes her folders by the “top drivers” in her business. Choose what makes sense to your brain – then document it so nothing gets lost again!

 

DOCUMENTS 

A few months back I started organizing this one with the best of intentions.

Thing is – I hardly use documents these days. Just about everything I create is in the Drive because Word opens VERRRY slowly on my Mac sometimes and I don’t have the patience for it.

Again – just go through what you’ve got and make general categories for your folders. Delete what you don’t want or need to reference anymore. You can upload these folders to Dropbox if and when you’re ready.

 

DOWNLOADS

Going through this folder on my laptop was a doozie, but I’m almost through it!

I started by organizing the contents by SIZE – that way I could deal with the big boys first (usually videos).

I’m deleting what I don’t need and naming + MOVING what I *do* want to keep to a general category folder for now.

 

MOVIES 

A lot of my hard disk memory is taken up by video files.

ACAC, ACAC Prep School, and other offer-specific video files have their own folder(s), Skype call recordings have their own folder, and blog videos have their own folders by year.

Movin’ most of these babies to Dropbox so I can free up space on my laptop.

 

PHOTOS

I copied allllll the photos from my iPhoto library to an external hard drive by year (got this computer in 2013, so I have three folders). THEN I uploaded each of those folders to Dropbox via the Desktop app (because the web-based app can only download a mere 3,000 files at a time ;)).

I still have a mess of a “Pictures” folder – and some pictures sprinkled throughout folders in the “Documents” folder, so those are on my to-organize list!

 

EXTERNAL HARD DRIVE(S)

I started with ONE Seagate hard drive (1TB), and even though I’m not close to filling it, I quickly ordered two more, inspired by this post by Scott Hanselman:

Here’s the rule of three. It’s a long time computer-person rule of thumb that you can apply to your life now. It’s also called the Backup 3-2-1 rule.

3 copies of anything you care about – Two isn’t enough if it’s important.

2 different formats – Example: Dropbox+DVDs or Hard Drive+Memory Stick or CD+Crash Plan, or more

1 off-site backup – If the house burns down, how will you get your memories back?

I plan to keep an extra copy of my Dropbox folders PLUS any “archived” docs that I no longer *need* in Dropbox on one hard drive. Just the VIFs.

I’ll use another hard drive exclusively for housing my TimeMachine backup – the FULL backup of my Macbook as it is right now. (More inspiration to clean it up, as I don’t want it back as disorganized as it is now ;))

The third one is just the backup of the backup – and I’ll probably store that one at my parents’ house in Texas and swap it out next time we go visit. (That’s my VERY “off-site” backup!)

 

SLACK

The smarties on my team and I are just starting to use Slack for communication – sort of like I used to do in Basecamp. It’s a neat way to track conversations and maintain transparency (and efficiency) so everybody can see what’s happening with which moving parts.

Will keep you posted on how we like it!

 

WORKBOARD

We’re going to use a (free!) Workboard account to track our next big project – goals, tasks, and calendar. (Trivinia Barber of Priority VA calls it the love child of Trello + Asana ;))

It’s just a bit more visual than Asana since it shows up in a calendar view (as opposed to a long linear list) – and I like that! I need to know when I’m working on what.

This is totally new to me too, so I’ll keep you posted.

 

That’s a wrap for what I’m organizing and what we’re using to get our biz together over here, but there’s ONE more piece I’d love to take control of while I’m in the zone, and that’s:

 

CYBER-SECURITY

I haven’t gotten far in this process YET, but I plan to follow the advice shared in this podcast series by Chalene Johnson to be sure I’ve got my life (not just my files!) as protected as possible from cyber crime.

If you haven’t heard the story of how Chalene’s accounts were hacked + sold on the black market, you’ve GOT to listen and learn how to protect yourself too. This could happen to anyone – even us “little guys”!

The little bit I’ve listened to so far highlights the value of programs like OnePassword and LastPass, two-step verification (which I recommend using on your Dropbox account and social media accounts)…and a whole lot more.

Seriously – listen to these podcasts and let me know your fave takeaways. I’m implementing right alongside you!

 

BOTTOM LINE(S)

It took a long time to MAKE this mess, and it’s going to take time to clean it up. That’s the way the cookie crumbles. Don’t let overwhelm be your excuse to keep your head in the sand. Just keep it real and move toward a solution.

Block out a solid day (or three), set a timer for 20 minutes of decluttering a day and reward yourself with a segment of your fave TV show, whatever you need to do – just get moving in the right direction.

Future you will be SO very thankful (as she rolls around in beautiful white space and brilliant ideas).

 

YOUR HOMEWORK

1) Take the #diginesting challenge and get your biz in order with me over the weeks and months to come. When you take at least 20 minutes in any given day to work on your declutter project, tag me on your social media channel of choice so I can celebrate with you!

2) In the comments below, share:

Do you struggle with digi-clutter too? Ready to take control of it with me?

If you *don’t* struggle with this, 1) high FIVE!, and 2) what are some of YOUR best tips for getting organized?

We’re listening :)

To kicking screenshots + taking names,

nik

P.S. If you liked this post + want to help me spread the word by using the links below to share it with your buddies, I would greatly appreciate it! You can also subscribe to my YouTube channel if you’d like to see new videos before I’ve had time to turn them into blog posts ;)

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LET’S TALK ABOUT IT.

  1. Mallie Hart

    This is just the kick in the pants I needed. I’d already started a massive email organization and purge, and now you’re prompted me to put in the time and effort NOW, to reap the organized rewards LATER!

    Do let us know how you like your Slack experience. We use it for our team(s) and for client project management. It’s a fantastic system, especially with all of the integrations!

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Glad to provide the kick, Mallie! We’re in this mess together (but not for long) ;))

  2. Malika

    Thank you Nikki! I loved that scope, it’s great to know I’m not alone as a digi hoarder ☺️ Thanks for sharing again, I took notes on the organising tips but then deleted it instead of emailing it (subliminal digi clearing taking effect?) greetings from th UK ???

  3. Kat Bern | Dream Home Creator

    Hahaha have you watched this video yourself? It’s funny, because at about 27:00 minutes your laptop is saying your disk is almost full :)

    It’s kind of making a point in itself.

    And I soooo get it.

    I need to get on with the digi-declutter too. The house is spotless, but laptop…. ouch. I’ve got a giant “SORT OUT” folder. Could use some accountability too. And good luck to you xx

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Haha YES, Kat – I added a special text graphic to note that part of the video when I edited it! So redonk.

      (Also noted it in the blog post – see the short paragraph before “Proof that the struggle is real.” above the vid ;))

      Happy sorting to YOU, my dear!

  4. Madeleine Madden

    Great post Nikki! Sharing with my facebook followers this morning. Spot on advice to making an organizing date with yourself, set the timer and treat yourself to a reward when everything’s where it should be (or deleted!). It’s tough, but it can be done.

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Thanks for sharing, Madeleine! YES, totally can be – and if we don’t get it done now, we’re making it WAAAY harder to do down the line :/

  5. Debra

    Boy, do I really need to address this issue! My desktop clutter has become overwhelming and stressful. But I just don’t have the time to unclutter right now. I so swamped with work for my business.

    Question: you mention using Dropbox as a place to store files. But I thought Dropbox states that they should only be used as a way to share files, not as a backup or storage location. Is it risky to use them to store files?

    P.S. I really appreciate your tips about decluttering! Very helpful, and I hope to make use of them soon.

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Totally hear you, Debra – but (ideally) nobody ever has time for this kind of stuff.

      We just have to make it a priority, even if it’s a micro-priority (like five minutes a day!) during exciting + busy times!

      Dropbox can definitely be used for storage (https://www.dropbox.com/business/tour/online-backup), but as the “rule of three” mentioned above – should never be the ONLY storage spot. Just a great cloud-based option.

      Hope this helps :)

  6. Kerryn Hewson

    Ugh, yes, digital clutter is the worst. I often just archive things by year and then start fresh! But that’s mostly an avoidance technique. My biggest digital clutter area is definitely downloads from opt-ins, freebies, and courses. Most of which I never actually use or implement. I think filing has always been a tedious task whether it’s physical or digital.

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Ah good awareness, there, Kerryn! I have a “Training & Downloads” folder for all the course content + random PDFs I’ve saved over the years. The folder itself isn’t pretty, but at least I know that’s where my library lives ;)

  7. Tracey

    This could not have been better times. My digi-life is a nightmare! I’ve been “planning” to organize. Trying to figure out the best way. Along comes Nikki and I just feel like… I can do this! It’s not complicated. It’s boring and tedious but it will help my business and motivation so much I’m getting giddy!
    This post feels like a Digital Hoarders episode and you’re the super hero come to save the day! It may sound a bit dramatic {but I like happy drama}, but really I mean it!
    Thank you thank you thank you!!

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      It’s not complicated. It’s boring and tedious but it will help my business and motivation so much I’m getting giddy! <

  8. Lisa Sharp

    Nikki that was the funniest scope ever. Totally real life. I gotta say doing that with kids around is BRAVE. Lol! I can only imagine what mine would say/do…

    Congrats on taking this digiclutter, ahem, challenge by the horns! And know that we all struggle with this. Even though I’m a Professional Organizer I’m still a business owner and have allllll the digital clutter to contend with myself!! It is easy to ignore, but man alive it can get crazytown lickety split. I liken dealing with clutter to paying off debt or losing weight. The only way is to FOCUS and BE CONSISTENT. (And like you said in the scope, you can’t delegate this stuff and the KEY is to do it in a way that makes sense to YOU. No sense in creating a system that you won’t understand or use.)

    I do have a few tips to share:

    1) Keep it simple, simple, simple. Create folders that are broad first and then narrow it down once you have everything into broad categories. You never know what the categories are going to be until you start sorting. Start big and then go small. The details will get you stuck and cranky in no time flat. Avoid at all costs.

    2) Keep it repeatable. Once you have a framework repeat it everywhere. In your docs, on Google Drive, in Dropbox. Keep a written index of what categories you are using beside your computer for reference until you have it totally memorized. When you do the same thing across platforms it will become far easier to remember where to find things AND to file things super fast because everything will have a home.

    3) Be flexible. Organization is totally organic. As we grow and evolve our systems should too. And if something isn’t working feel free to change it up. This stuff is not written in stone and should reflect where you are and where you are headed.

    4) Do not have “to be filed” “miscellaneous” “random stuff” folder names. Those things are big black holes. Just don’t do it. This is also true for IRL filing. You are better off creating a file that says “August 2015” so at least you have *some* frame of reference if you are otherwise totally stuck.

    5) Use the ampersand before your folder name to put it at the top of the listing so it will look like this:
    @clients
    @current project
    @marketing strategy
    .jpg
    .pdf
    bunch of other random files

    I’ve spent the last few Friday nights decluttering my own computer (I know, super fancy!) while hanging out with the family watching tv. It doesn’t take a whole lot of focus once you get in a groove (love your renaming screenshot trick, Nikki!) and it’s a far less painful way to tackle this enormous issue. I have found tons of half finished blog posts, ideas for programs, pdf freebies I meant to get out to my tribe, collaborations I meant to follow up on… like you said, this isn’t glamorous work but it really is a financial and mental drain!

    Here’s to getting our digiclutter whipped into shape! Thanks for this AWESOME post!!

    xo
    Lisa

  9. Georgia

    This. Is. Brilliant! And bloody perfect timing – as i sat down to my computer to clear emails and write (yet another, to do list, re digital decluttering). ;-)
    Its so easy to ignore this stuff, because its outta sight! But oh boy, it’s way outta control. Thanks for the kick-in-the-butt!
    I’m on to it!
    G x

  10. Liesje

    Great post Nikki

    I didn’t realize I needed some of these tips untill I read them, ha!

    Could do with a better system for my digi-mess!

    Thanks,

    L.

  11. fiona

    This is soooo true!

    Things stack up so quickly and before you know it its all a mess and that pesky notice ‘your disk is full’ keeps popping up. I love your advice Nikkie.

    I started using evernote about a year ago when I started my biz, and am now totally addicted to it. I use it with dropbox and google drive. Means I can organise and search for everything and everything – and save it in there with the web clipper.

    Also I use Zapier or IFTTT which makes it easy to do automatic filing – yes automatic!

  12. Marsha from YesYesMarsha.com

    OOH! I’m usually pretty good at deleting pics I don’t need on my phone, but this is next level!

    Thanks for all the advice. I’m good at backing things up on hard drives, but hadn’t thought about the “if my house burned down”. On it!

    xxx

  13. Monica Stone

    Hey! I watched Amy’s Dropbox video too, but in a B School Bonus! It changed everything for me… especially the 1.2.3. thing. You mentioned you were moving your movies to dropbox, but how does that free up space on your laptop since dropbox is on both? I am just asking because I need to do the same thing & I want to understand. Thanks Nikki! You’re such an inspiration :)

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Yes, Monica! I haven’t had the guts to delete them from my desktop completely yet (and my disk is yelling at me again this weekend..eek), but it’s possible with the “Selective Sync” feature in Dropbox: https://www.dropbox.com/en/help/175

      You can pick + choose which folders you want to keep locally AND in the cloud, and which ones just live in the cloud.

  14. Tracey

    This post has been knocking around my brain the last couple of days. This morning I sat down and miracles happened!

    I just took 1820 files {mostly all loosey goosey in my drop box} and whittled them down into 7 nice and neat little folders {with lovely subfolders}. I feel organized like a big girl. No more biz envy for those uber organized ladies. Count me among them!

    I still have Google Drive to get through, but that’s not nearly the hoarding situation as DropBox.

    You’re like my business Fairy God-Mother!

    thank you, thank you, thank you!

  15. Claudia

    OMG. This could not have come at a better time.
    I have been putting off organizing ny photos, screenshots, pics, graphics, etc for WEEKS. Who am I kidding? MONTHS. But this week I sat down and wrote a list of everything that needs to be organized, cleaned up and/or trashed. My goal is to start this weekend and finish before the end of the month. Wish me luck + thanks for the perfectly-timed blog post and tips!

    -Claudia P.,

  16. Dr. Tonia Winchester

    Hi Nikki!

    I’ve been in a digi-blackout for months as I’ve been getting really clear on my mad mission, and moving clinics. Weee! Anyhoo, it was lovely to reconnect with your beautiful smile and wise words. This video was SOOOO entertaining. I’m super anal about digi-organization. It’s kinda a pathology actually. But I am glad for it because it doesn’t make things easier for treasure finding. I will typically go in and tidy quarterly. But at the end of the day – you can always search for what you’re looking for it. Thanks for the fun today! XXXOO my dear!

  17. Juju Sprinkles

    Nikki, I love how thorough this post is! I just recently decluttered my smart phone, and it took almost 3 weeks because I went into my inbox and social media apps and purged like mad. But you have a few more tips that I need to really declutter EVERYTHING. Thanks a million =)

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