A Quick Guide To Simplify Your Digital Life

The following is a guest post by Future Buzz community member Vincent H. Clarke.

It’s very easy to waste your day browsing your social media accounts, checking emails and doing quite a few other unproductive online activities. With a simplified digital life, you’ll stay focused on what’s really important and be far more productive.

Maybe you’re just the opposite, overwhelming yourself with so much work that you have little or no organization, and yet you still manage to accomplish little throughout your day.

When you simplify your daily activities, you’ll have a whole new perspective on what’s really important. A simplified outlook will give you more time for yourself and for your important activities without causing extra stress or procrastination.

In the end, everybody figures out what truly works best for their own productivity. These suggestions are only meant as a way to clean up your busy life so that you can make the most of your time.

Step 1. clean up your work environment (both physical and digital)

Your work environment reflects your state of mind. The cleaner and clearer it is, the fewer amounts of external distractions you’ll have.

If you work from home, try moving the TV back into the living room where it belongs. Finally throw away all those loose papers and trash you’ve been saving up. File all the bills and bank statements stacking up on your coffee table.

It’s always surprising to me how much clutter piles up in just a few days without cleaning up regularly. Whether at home, at the office, or in your car, make sure you take a few minutes out of your day to clean up your personal area and throw out anything unnecessary.

To makes things even easier on you and the environment, I’d suggest going paperless as often as possible. Try and keep as many documents and files as you can in the cloud so they’re available anywhere.

Remember that this extends to your digital devices as well. Your desktop, laptop, smartphone, and tablet are just as much a part of your work environment as your actual surroundings. Get rid of any apps, shortcuts, files, and programs you don’t regularly use or don’t really need. Not only will this make you more productive, but it will make your digital devices run faster and smoother as well.

Step 2: remove distractions by  trying minimalist software

There is an application I use called Dark Room: it is a minimalist word processor that runs on Windows and requires the .NET framework. It’s an old school, full screen, distraction free writing environment that’s basically green text on a black background – that’s it. There are similar apps available for Macs.

It allows you to completely focus on your work and nothing else. It’s very easy to continuously play with the font and style of your blog posts while you’re working on them in more robust applications such as Microsoft Word. This wastes so much time and in the end you’ll lose out a ton of great ideas you could have written down if you hadn’t been so distracted.

I’d also suggest giving the old pen and paper a try. It’s the ultimate escape from your digital life, and in the end, you’ll be more focused then you ever would have been with superfluous windows opened up in the background of your computer.

Step 3: get to inbox zero

This is a concept introduced by Merlin Mann, the creator of 43folders. It’s the idea of clearing out your inbox to complete zero. Going through all your emails, and then deleting them all when you’re done.

Given how many important emails we get in a day, I’ve modified this to basically suggest that you should clear your emails as much as possible. It may not be down to complete zero, but you’ll be much better off than 300 new emails each day.

First, try unsubscribing from any of those newsletters that you signed up for just to get a coupon. If you have social media accounts or online bank accounts, make sure you turn off those pesky notification emails and updates that take up so much of your inbox. You don’t need another email telling you that you charged your card at McDonalds for a coffee, followed by another email telling you that a new person friend requested you. Anytime you get a spam message in your inbox don’t just trash it, make sure you label it as spam. That’s what that spam button is for!

Right there you’ve just eliminated at least 60-100 daily emails.

Finally, set up some email filters that automatically organize and send messages like bills, bank statements, client lists, and other important but regular emails to their respective folders that you created. Then, at a designated time, read through these emails. This is another perfect way to be more productive by prioritizing what you read in your inbox.

Step 4: set up automated file backups

Another great way to simplify your digital lifestyle is to have all of your most important files backed up and synced automatically to a cloud service. Dropbox, Sky Drive, Google Drive, and iCloud are just a few examples of popular file hosting services available today. Many of them offer a free 2 or 4 GB of memory to start out, and will charge you a regular fee when you go over this amount.

The best part is you can access your files from anywhere. From another computer, tablet, or smartphone even. Everything is taken care of automatically, so you don’t have to worry about where things are being saved.

Step 5: make your own “top five list”

If you could only get five things done today, what would they be? How important would you rank each of those five tasks against each other?

Figure out what’s the most important stuff you need to get done today, and focus on that. It’s easy to finish up a number of small tasks throughout your day that distract you from your real priorities. Yes, you need to answer your emails. Yes, you have to buy new drapes for the kitchen. But are these the most important things you need to get done today? Maybe they are, but the point is to prioritize all of your activities so you focus on maximizing your productivity for the day.

Vincent H. Clarke is a blogger for USB Memory Direct, a leader in the custom flash drives industry. He enjoys writing about marketing and personal productivity, and can be found on Google+.

image credit: Shutterstock