January 2, 2022•895 words
With the new year comes my usual resistance to resolutions. I have nothing against those declarations; I merely refuse to regurgitate the same list of unsustainable objectives that I failed at 25 years ago.
But, my resolve to declutter my digital world has gathered steam. I'm happy to expound on this topic for the benefit of the five people who read this blog.
First, I had to define the parameters of decluttering. Bookmarking, File Maintenance and Email Management represented the three major sources of angst.
Next, I had to identify the causes of clutter. Initially, I blamed everything on technology. Ultimately, I realized that my behaviors were the root cause of clutter: Obsession, Shiny Object Syndrome and Misusing Software.
Finally, I decided to work on the root causes. Ironically, technology helped the most!
As a programmer, I wanted the perfect application, even if it was for my own use. As a digital content consumer I wanted the perfect system for storing and retrieving files. Somehow, these two desires were always at odds within the confines of my personal computers.
For instance, I never, ever liked the default Windows Explorer and Windows Search utilities. I tried many alternatives and finally found two useful alternatives:
- Xyplorer.exe - for day-to day file operations
- Everything.exe - for file name searching
Sadly, these do nothing to kickstart file organization. They just show me my mess in all its glory.
As for bookmarking websites, the main issue I had with browser bookmarks was not being able to search and organize them. I never gave up looking for the perfect extension. I think I have found it in Workona, a tab manager that also saves web pages.
Shiny Object Syndrome
This is the big one. I had acquired so many programs, plug-ins, educational products and courses, that my hard drive was burgeoning with folders. I blamed AppSumo but, really, I just like to play with software!
Technology couldn't help me in this instance. I didn't want to close my AppSumo account because good software is available from time to time. Instead, I embarked on a two-step withdrawal process:
- Visit the site, see the software and look at the 1- and 2-star reviews. Those were often sufficient to quell my knee-jerk purchasing impulses;
- Delete the AppSumo emails without even reading them!
Once I got AppSumo under control, the other software companies weren't so enticing anymore. Weird, but I'll take that.
Here is just one example: if the purpose of Gmail is to enable me to send and receive messages, then treating it as a database is misuse! If you are familiar with Inbox-zero, Getting Things Done and similar philosophies, You'll know that the focus is on processing each email message and deleting it.
There is nothing wrong with retaining information from email. The point is to store it in a more suitable location. Think about your own mail that comes into your house. If you let it pile up unopened, you'll end up with a time-consuming mess to wade through. Instead, you want to toss the junk mail, pay the bills (or at least acknowledge them) and file important letters away.
With Gmail, I spent too much time organizing my email. Eventually, I embraced the idea of actually processing the emails right out of my inbox. I dispensed with 90% of the organizational filters, keeping only Family, Friends and Clients.
Sadly, there are dozens of of software and utilities that I misuse. Even my beloved Xyplorer! That leads to the point of this post: I learned a new trick to simplify file maintenance.
It Was Always About the Tags
I have alluded to the efficiency imparted by using tags instead of folders. But, until this morning, I never realized just how easy I could make my computer life. Normally, I misuse Xyplorer by building category trees (basically, short-cuts to files I use often.) Although the feature is powerful, it conflicts with one of my adopted file management philosophies: Johnny Decimal.
With the Johnny Decimal System, I have the flexibility to rearrange the logical organization of files. Sometimes, I'll move entire folders to another area. Obviously, this breaks the Xyplorer category trees!
What I discovered today is that I do not need to use category trees so extensively. All I have to do is give each folder a specific tag and then search for that tag using Everything.exe!
When I find the folder I want, I just double-click it and Everything instructs Xyplorer to navigate to that folder's location.
This sounds simple because it is!
Unsubscribe, Cancel and Decline
To tackle the clutter of email even more, I'm working on leaving a lot of places. LOL
I talked about this before. Essentially, I need to let some stuff go. More importantly, once I leave, I need to just say, "No" to new offers. Actually, I have a more fun way to check things out without a long-term commitment to my inbox: Burnermail. In fact, it saved me some money!
The Fight Continues
I still need to do something about the 99,912 .mp3 music files, 5,587 .pdf files and countless abandoned projects. (Numbers supplied by Everything.)
Stay tuned for more Digital Diet!