Put your Mobile Device on a Digital Diet

Dec 15, 2016

Feeling like your smart phone or tablet is bogged down with information and social media is pulling you in too many different directions? Then it is time to reduce the digital clutter. Our electronic devices have limited memory, so it is important to keep them trim and efficient. Let’s look at eight ideas for digital clutter reduction—then we’ll devise a plan for keeping our devices healthy.

Digital Decluttering Ideas

  1. Limit Social Media Exposure. Facebook, Twitter, blogs, social networks and newsletters abound with information. Keep in mind the idea that quality interactions are often more rewarding than just being bombarded by huge quantities of Facebook or Twitter friends, for example. Focus on and interact with groups, chats, tweets or people that truly interest you. You’ll find that you can actually spend less time on social media but receive the benefit of meaningful interactions. If you find yourself spending too much time on social media, set the timer on your clock application before you start and limit yourself to 10 or 15 minutes at a time.

  2. Set Boundaries on the Apps Your Child Can Download. Most likely your kids have as many apps as you do if not more on their mobile device. Most smart phones users have downloaded 25 apps. Many apps for children appear harmless but can include in-game app purchases that trick kids into purchasing token to enhance their game experience. The big three game app distributors: Google, Apple and Amazon have all been fined by the FTC for deceptive practices and are supposed to provide hassle-free refunds if a child makes an unauthorized purchase. But rather than fighting with an app distributor for a refund consider being proactive by installing a parental control software that will send you alerts when you child downloads any app. Unwanted apps can require approval before use or blocked from their phone.

  3. Keep Your Inbox Clean. An overstuffed inbox can feel overwhelming. Take a few minutes once or twice a day to examine, respond or organize new emails. If you can quickly respond, do so. If not, flag it until you can get to it, keeping in mind that you will have to take time for this later. Throw out emails you are not going to respond to. Unsubscribe from advertisers that sneak into your inbox. If you are really interested in something, you will be able to easily find it yourself if and when you do need it. Or, consider creating a separate email account just for dealing with the stores with which you have accounts. This way, you can keep your important business or personal email accounts “advertisement free.” If your inbox is overwhelmingly full, make a plan to tackle it (discussed later).

  4. Organize Your Email File Structure. Most email services (such as Yahoo or Gmail) provide a folder system for email management. Create a system of folders – for example: personal, business, school, photos, favorite quotes, newsletters, etc. File your saved emails according to the categories that you create, so they will be easy to find when you need them. Keep your folders clean by deleting old and unimportant emails. A sensible folder structure will serve you well and reduce mental clutter when searching for your important emails.

  5. Streamline Your Web Browser. Examine your bookmarks. Organize them into a folder structure (also provided by most common browsers) and save only the bookmarks that you use frequently or occasionally. Delete old and unused bookmarks and remember to clear your search history and cookies frequently. No sense hanging on to a huge history file that takes up memory or important information gathered by applications about you and your preferences for others to access or exploit.

  6. Keep Your Background Simple. Smart phone and tablet screens are populated with numerous icons that we use to access our applications. It is tempting to change the background with a favorite photo of a loved one or some dazzling art. Before you do this, consider that a plain background creates less distraction and clutter for your mind to process than a busy or brilliant background will.

  7. Clean Out Your Programs and Media. Old applications that you never use are hampering the performance of your smart phone or tablet. Take time to uninstall them. Same goes for movies, music and photographs that you are not using. You can always upload new applications, movies and music. And, ask yourself why would you keep an unimportant photo that or one that is blurry? If you don’t like the idea of deleting media files forever, sync your device with your computer and transfer your media files to your computer. There are also direct backup hard drive options available for your smart phone or tablet if you don’t own a computer.

  8. Passwords. Remembering passwords is a huge problem for many people. Because most of us think digitally now, we overlook the most obvious and perhaps easiest way to store and protect our passwords. Write them down! Yes, I said it! H-A-N-D-W-R-I-T-E them. Security expert Bruce Schneier suggests keeping your passwords written and treating that list like you would any other valuable document, which is to say with a high degree of security. I happen to keep one list in my wallet and one in my safe (okay, I admit it, I actually keep the list in an excel spreadsheet which is alphabetized), but I love it! If you are steadfast and committed to being paperless, consider digital password managers such as Dashlane, 1Password, or LastPass. Make a note, though, you may have to pay a fee for some tasks or features. The Password service private storage bin for your finely-created passwords, all hidden behind a single password that only you know.

  9. Periodic Maintenance. Turn your device off for 30 seconds, then turn it back on. This “reboot” will give your device the opportunity to reorganize itself. Always reboot your device after you have thrown out files or programs to get the best storage optimization for your smart phone or tablet. Often, we leave our devices “on” for weeks or months. If you want the most out of your device, power it down and restart it every few days, or at least once a week. Your Droid or iPhone will function more smoothly if you do.

Plan of Action
Make an appointment with yourself. It can be anywhere from 15 minutes to an entire day. Just be clear to set aside time for decluttering and optimizing your device. Some people are sprinters (you like short spurts of activity around projects) and others are marathoners (you like the project done in one long session). Either way works, as long as you make a plan and stick to it. We all know that organizing the playroom or closet once does not keep it organized. The same holds true for your electronic device. If you want to keep your Android or iPhone organized and functioning with high efficiency, check your calendar and set another appointment for no longer than 1 month down the road.

The big three game app distributors: Google, Apple and Amazon