Stay on Track by Eliminating Digital Clutter

Stay on track - eliminate digital clutterYou may not think of it this way, but your computer desktop is a lot like the top of an actual desk. You start off with your essentials, the things you really need to get work done on your computer. Then stuff starts piling up, both good and bad: unread emails, to-do lists, games, social media, and more. These items are the “digital clutter” in your life.

Cutting through this “digital clutter” has become an essential skill for success, especially for those attempting to balance going to school with work and family. Recently, an article in Fast Company highlighted a few tips for eliminating digital clutter1. In this post, we’ll break down Fast Company’s tips and offer a few of our own that are sure to keep you focused on education success.

Digital Cleanup: Tips & Tricks

The Fast Company article highlights four key ways to cut back on digital clutter2, each of which can be useful for students going to school online:

  1. Eliminate duplicates and unnecessary files: This tip is great for ensuring your classwork is in good shape. It’s not uncommon to have duplicates of homework or important class files; getting rid of these copies will also ensure you’re always using the most recent version of a document.
  2. Clean up and prioritize your inbox: There are few feelings worse than realizing you didn’t respond to an important email because you didn’t notice it among other unread junk-mail in your inbox. That goes double for anything classwork-related. Try adding labels or color-coding your inbox for prioritization; most email clients have this feature. Regularly check email and delete spam as well.
  3. Clear out downloads: Your downloaded files are typically stored in two places: In a folder on your personal drive and on a separate screen in your web browser. It’s important to regularly clean out both locations; this will help eliminate duplicate copies of assignments and handouts, while also freeing up essential hard drive space.
  4. Refine social network use: The Fast Company article discusses fine-tuning your social media contacts so it’s only those with whom you regularly communicate. When it comes to online learning and doing schoolwork, it’s best to shut out social media completely. Social networking eats up time, promotes procrastination, and causes focus to slip.

Here are three additional tips that are great for cutting out the noise and staying focused while trying to study or take an online class:

  1. Set aside “digital time” for education: It’s crucial that some time at your computer or desk is dedicated to nothing but distraction-free digital learning. Everyone is different; some prefer to set aside a portion of each day, while others prefer to pack everything into a shorter time span. Either way, making studying or working a regular “appointment” will help you stay focused and avoid procrastination.
  2. Use only what’s needed: When you sit down to do classwork or attend an online lesson, open only the programs you need for that activity. An example: If you’re writing an essay, make a point to only keep a word processing program open. Opening a web browser or communication platform when you’re working will lead to the temptation to use those programs instead of working.
  3. Accurately name files: Ever had one of those “I can’t find my file!”-freak outs? The way to avoid that problem is simple: name your files with a regular naming structure. The easiest way to do this is to include a short title, a date, and a version number. Here’s an example file name to use as a template: TITLE-DD-MM-YY-V1. Using this naming convention will help prevent file mix-ups for assignments or notes.

While cleaning up digital clutter isn’t the only step to education success, de-cluttering certainly makes it easier to work more efficiently.

Go Forward with Digital Learning

Armed with the seven tips above, you’re ready to eliminate digital clutter and tackle any online learning challenge.

Not yet a CTU student? Check out five things you need before going back to school as an adult.