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Organizing Your Digital Life

Along with tackling my physical clutter this year I’m going to sort out my digital clutter. Erin Loechner of Design For Mankind (as well as First Time Around here at Babble Voices) gave a class at Alt Summit recently on how to organize your online life and she’s shared her notes online. This has prompted me to make an outline for myself as well.

Email

A few years back I reluctantly hopped on the Inbox Zero train. And you know what? It works for me. The general rules are: Don’t check your email unless you have time to answer what is in there. Once you open it, answer or sort everything you can. It took me a while to get into it but now I can work through my email without feeling like it’s going to destroy me.

Earlier today I came across Keith Rarick’s Inbox Zero For Life which, like Merlin Mann’s The DMZ, suggests putting all the emails you need to answer into a separate action folder. The idea is that by clearing out your Inbox and seeing it empty you can clear your brain. I have tried this and it really didn’t work for me; instead it just made me feel awful about my inbox and my action folder. I’m finding that an Inbox Twenty-or-So is enough to keep my brain from feeling overwhelmed. Still, I need to work on answering emails faster so that the handful of messages in my Inbox doesn’t turn into a blind spot.

File Organization

I need to declare file bankruptcy. I have three computers that I use on a regular basis and I’ve been leaving whatever files I have been working with (usually photos) on the various desktops. I’m going to make one folder named “Megan 2012″ and dump everything in there. (Everything clean, everything new!) It will live in my storage (a huge physical flash drive and Dropbox) and I will hopefully never need to find anything again. Once all three computers are tidy looking I’m going to impose a file naming structure on myself and make sure everything is moved from my computer to my Dropbox.

Bookmarks

I also need to declare bookmark bankruptcy. I save links to add to my site, Not Martha, and I put things up on Pinterest but I’ve never used an online bookmark manager. (Well, I did actually. I started using Delicious about a week before the big shakeup. It might have been a coincidence but in the case it was my fault, I’m sorry.) Instead I have Firefox and Chrome browsers with suuuuper long bookmarks lists. I’m going to back these up, stick them in storage with my file backups and start clean. I haven’t found an online bookmark manager I like yet — if you have any suggestions please do tell me about them.

Passwords

I need to get all my passwords in a place that I can find from anywhere. I need to remove the finding and securing of passwords from of my to-do list before I travel. I’ve chosen LastPass after noticing that it had been recommended from a few different sources. I’m committing to changing my passwords on a regular basis. I’m marking a Friday each month to change my bank, email and website related passwords.

Since my gmail accounts are so important to me I’ll be turning on Gmail’s 2-Step Verification. When I first learned about this I thought it sounded like a pain to have another step to go through and then I noticed that I never don’t have my phone right next to me. And after learning a little more about what can happen if somebody gets into your account the extra step is worth it.

Do you have plans to clean up your online life? What tools or techniques are you going to use?

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