Let’s be serious, spring cleaning is a misnomer. Nothing is less motivating to spending time inside cleaning than a beautiful spring day. But that doesn’t make it a bad idea. After all, a scattered workplace makes for a scattered mind — or, just as bad, a scattered and slow computer.
Earlier this month, fellow Redbooth writer Karen highlighted some great spring cleaning tips from other blogs in “How to Get Organized at Work: Spring Cleaning Edition.” Now we thought we’d share our own spring cleaning tips for arguably your closest coworker, your mobile office, your business and livelihood: your computer. For those of us who are solopreneurs or small business owners, working from home or on a distributed team, our PC or Mac is usually for both work and for play.
This means you could spend more than ten hours a day staring into a screen that may be backed by pure anarchy. Kicking off Q2 with a good computer clean up will make your mind more focused and your computer just plain faster — just in time for that important client meeting on videoconference and the new season of Game of Thrones.
Inbox Zero: What an elusive and fickle friend
For many of us, email is both the life-changing way we communicate and a seemingly immovable albatross that stagnates our productivity. That’s why I try to only check my email three times a day, which means that reaching Inbox Zero is simply impossible for more than an hour. Sometimes it can be such a quagmire that you don’t know where to begin.
Agile coach Tomas Kejzlar gave me a good tip to get back on track: start off with archiving all emails from previous calendar years. If you’re really brave, you can then keep up the momentum with every month, archiving anything more than a month old.
Once you get that inbox down to a bearable 50 or so actionable emails, you can then start trying out the more rigorous steps of Inbox Zero, like deleting or archiving as much as possible before opening, identifying two-minute emails that you can deal with immediately, and then creating a small “Requires Response” folder that you completely address and clear out at a regular time at the start or end of each day.
Spring is also a great time to unsubscribe from the hundreds of newsletters you’re subscribed to, so you save inbox space and have time to open the ones that actually add value — find out more about how Unroll.me can help with this, along with a wide range of more tips for battling email overload.
Keep those pop-ups in check
Social media, email, and other apps are awesome tools that help us be productive. But they are also the interrupting cow yelling MOOO in the middle of your thought process, often physically blocking you from clicking on your last tabs opened.
I have to turn off all desktop and browser notifications and let them go my phone, which I also try to avoid eye contact with most of the day. (Tip: My husband gets gets worried when I don’t answer his calls, so I have my Fitbit set to vibrate for phone calls — besides that I only look at my phone thrice during the workday too.)
For a Mac, simply go to System Preferences > Notifications and set up a Do Not Disturb during working hours. This is also good so you still get notifications for system updates, but during a time of day when it’s less traumatic to do a system restart, closing all those tabs. If you’re a Redbooth user, it’s easy to turn your Redbooth desktop notifications on and off — and you can discover a treasure trove of techniques for beating information overload.
Don’t be afraid to delete
Your computer gets a little slow sometimes. It happens to all of us, we become tab-aholics with way too many website works in progress open and we simply never go back and look at what we’ve downloaded once we’ve initially reviewed it. Spring is the perfect time to revisit all that malarky we’ve downloaded and give our computer more room to work with:
Start by looking in your Downloads folder — you can probably delete all. Make sure to do a special cleanup of wherever your screenshots land too; those files you probably are only using once accumulate something serious over months.
Next, look in your Applications folder. What aren’t you ever using? This can range from that game your friend made you try to that media downloading tool that doesn’t work anymore and older versions of software. After you’ve uninstalled anything you don’t want, check and make sure all your useful tools are updated.
Redbooth user? Use your unlimited Redbooth file storage! Working on a project with a remote team? Why waste the money on extra storage or worry about managing permissions to external clouds, when you can keep on-point and on-topic by uploading all your work files onto the Redbooth workspaces, for easy sharing among collaborators and clients. You can upload as many files as you want, or link your Google Drive, Box, Dropbox, or OneDrive files so you have them right where they matter most.
Well, you don’t have to close these — but if you keep opening new ones, at some point it will catch up with you! Find out how The Great Suspender and other Google Chrome extensions can help you keep your browser running smoothly with this roundup of much-loved Chrome extensions.
To the cloud!
Really, anything that doesn’t need to be virtually nailed down can go to the cloud. I keep copies of every expense receipt file on both my iCloud and Google Drive which I then organize by month and link to in my Google Sheet expense reports, so I can just share it all View Only with my accountant each quarter. And unless they are nefarious (and you probably should have learned from celebrities not to take them anyway), keep your photos in your personal cloud. I only download and then delete photos that I need to edit and use for articles I’m writing, so no precious memory is sucked up by my vacation pics.
Spring security checkup
We are all loathe to do this, but a new season means a new time to update passwords. It’s also a good time to revisit how you are logging onto sites because, more and more, OAuth is becoming the standard. OAuth is the way you login with your Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, Twitter, or LinkedIn ID instead of with an email and password.
A lot of my friends refuse to do this because they think it is safer to use the same login info for everything and to just make it a “tricky” password — but it’s not. In fact, it’s much more secure to do a really long password (something you can remember, like a couple lines of a favorite song that you don’t have listed as your favorite song on your Facebook or Instagram) for an OAuth login that you use for everything.Some think it's safer to use the same login info everywhere if it's a “tricky” password. It’s not. Click To Tweet
OAuth lets you manage all your permissions for third-party sites in one or a few places, so if a less-trusted third-party site is hacked, it’s easy for you to revoke permissions or even for that major OAuth-trusted website to revote the integration immediately. As you use more tools for work and play, OAuth helps you keep your credentials all organized and secure — that’s why Redbooth gives you the option of entering your email and password or simply using your Google, Twitter or Facebook to log in.
And now that you know what OAuth is, it’s time to log into your social media and email accounts driving your OAuth and update those passwords. Then go into your Settings > Apps to see what you’re connected to — I guarantee three-quarters won’t be used and would do you good to get disconnected. Worried you might need it later? Don’t worry, it doesn’t delete your account, it just logs you out — OAuth makes it convenient for you to reconnect again with two authorization clicks.
Get that computer clean up started!
What are you waiting for? Get cleaning (and deleting!)
I know, I know, this isn’t necessarily fun, but streamlining your admin and freeing up computer space leaves you more efficient and with more time for fun in the sun. Join me in giving your computer that much-needed seasonal makeover…and tell us what’s on your digital cleanup list too. Share your tips below or tweet them to us @RedboothHQ and @JKRiggins!