How to declutter your devices

If your computer’s cluttered with years of documents or your phone is slowed down by apps you haven’t opened in months, then it’s more than just a minor annoyance – it’s harming your productivity.

In our first post on the decluttering topic, we explained how a messy computer, phone or tablet can hold you back: electronic clutter means it takes you longer to find what you need, eats up memory, slows down your device, and, most significantly of all, acts as a mental barrier to peak performance.

Whether you have a brand new device fresh from the box, or an older one in need of a tidy up, these tips will help you get organised - and stay that way.

1. Clean up your desktop or home screen

Look at the icons on your computer’s desktop or your phone’s home screen and try to remember when you last clicked them. The whole point is to offer quick access to the things you need most often, so if you haven’t clicked an icon in the last week, it’s wasting valuable space.

To manage your desktop, you could use a wallpaper with sections marked on it to create different categories (like these ones from Lifehacker) or an app like Fences which organises and hides icons, mirroring folders on your desktop. For your phone or tablet, a smaller screen makes it even more important to be economical with space – think about the things you’re likely to need as soon as you look at your device and put them front and centre.

2. Organise your files and folders

Take a long, hard look at the files and folders on your computer and delete or archive anything you don’t need anymore.

Then look at the structure of your filing and consider whether it’s as efficient and easy-to-navigate as it could be. If it isn’t, reorganise. Everyone’s needs are different, but a consistent way of naming your files and folders is a good place to start, and it could also help to separate files you’re working on now from ones you’ve finished with, to make it easier to get to what you need.

There are apps that can help you keep your files in order:

·   Duplicate File Finder finds and deletes identical files by comparing content, rather than file names alone.

•          Elyse lets you add tags to your files to identify the content, which gives you a way to search for things beyond file names alone.

•          Belvedere for Windows and Hazel for Mac let you automate lots of file-related tasks, for example making sure your downloads get saved in the appropriate folder, not just in ‘Downloads’.

3. Use the cloud

Why take up precious memory on your device when you can store things in the cloud? Services like Dropbox, OneDrive and Evernote allow you to access your files wherever you are and from multiple devices. They can help reduce duplication, because you can access one version on whatever device you’re using. When it comes to your phone or tablet, automatically syncing to the cloud can save a lot of stress if you’re unlucky enough to lose or break it.

Similarly, consider getting rid of music stored on your device if you also use a streaming service and could listen using that instead.

4. Cut down on apps

Take a look at the apps on your device. Ask yourself if you use them regularly, and also if they’re really useful; you might play that addictive game every day, but it could be eating away time that you could spend more productively elsewhere. Delete the apps you don’t use regularly, ones that waste your time, or free apps that you don’t use often and can download again as and when you need them.

You should also take a look at the apps that are running in the background – not only do they eat up data, drain your battery and slow down your phone, constant notifications can be distracting too, so consider turning them off.

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