Declutter Your Digital Life

Digital clutter might not feel like much of a  problem since most of us have an abundance of digital storage, but filling your hard drive and your devices with crap you don’t want or even use will hinder your productivity big time. It’s like filing your basement with everything you’ve ever owned, just because you have the space. Clearing this digital clutter will save you time and help you stay on top of your shit. Here are a variety of ways to simplify your digital life:

Organize your phone apps

Yes, even your phone needs to be decluttered.

First, delete any apps you don’t use anymore or don’t want to use anymore.

Next, delete the folder system. You might think this is a weird suggestion, but all those folders do is create one more step between you and Facebook (you wouldn’t want that, would you?). Folders make it harder to find the app you are looking for and also makes you more likely to keep unused apps since they are somewhat hidden.

Finally, organize your apps so that the ones you use most often are on your home screen. I keep three screens worth of apps and my third screen houses games for my kids and apps aren’t able to be deleted. I rarely have to stray from my home screen and I can see my most used apps at a glance.

Be the boss of your inbox

I know email isn’t sexy (although inbox zero sure is), but it is something everyone needs to deal with and it can either stress you out or help you out. To avoid letting your inbox get out of hand, check your email daily just as you would check your actual mailbox every day.  The only emails you should be keeping in your inbox are ones you’ve purposely left there to be dealt with at a certain time. If your reply would only take a few minutes, try to reply immediately. If you’ve received spam or unwanted subscriptions, unsubscribe immediately (I don’t know why it took me years to figure this out, but unsubscribing makes dealing with email so much simpler and takes just a few seconds).

You can even use cool websites like this one to view all of your subscriptions at once. (Unroll.me will only let you unsubscribe to five subscriptions before asking you to promote their site to get unlimited access. What I did was just use the unroll me site to view my master list and then I unsubscribed the old fashioned way.)

CLEAN UP YOUR BOOKMARKS

If you use your computer a lot, you probably have accumulated a ton of bookmarks that you rarely use. Delete the ones you don’t need anymore and organize the rest. This is where I actually love the use of folders. I have a folder for my photography business and a folder for my blog and it keeps me organized and focused and also makes it so I don’t have dozens of bookmarks cluttering my toolbar.

FREE YOUR CAMERA PHONE

I can’t tell you how long I lived with a perfectly good camera phone that never worked because I had used up all of my free space. If I was desperate to take a photo, I would frantically try to delete photos, videos and even text message threads to get enough space to take the damn photo and by then, the moment was usually gone. I know I am not alone here. When my girlfriends were visiting from out of town, the five of us tried to take a selfie and all five of our phones were full. Enough is enough people!

  1. Once a month, go through all the photos on your phone and delete as harshly as possible (I know that right now, having multiple of you and your boyfriend drinking mimosas on Sunday morning makes sense, but it won’t in a couple of years). Pro tip: I’ve found that adding this as a task to my Bullet Journal keeps me from putting this off.
  2. If you have an iPhone, don’t forget to go to your albums and find the “recently deleted” folder (who’s terrible idea was this anyway?), select and then press ‘delete all’ to actually free up the space on your phone.
  3. Back up your photos. There are many ways to do this (don’t you worry, I will write a whole post about this since it took me forever to develop a system that works). I use Image Capture to import the photos to my computer, and then back them up to my external hard drive and my online backup system Crashplan so I never have to worry about losing my precious photos. Before disconnecting from Image Capture, I delete all the photos from my phone. Ahhh, best feeling ever.
TIDY YOUR DESKTOP

Don’t let your desktop get out of hand with folders, photos and screenshots cluttering your view. When you turn on your computer, you should be welcomed by a beautiful image that makes you smile. I try to only use my desktop to store things that I need to deal with. Right now I have a folder of photos that I plan to back up to my hard drive and a screen shot of a quote that I want to write down in my Bullet Journal. If you decide to ignore this tip, at least keep the chaos organized by putting everything in neat columns.

SIMPLIFY YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA

When I say ‘simplify your social media’, I am not suggesting you give up Facebook or reign in your tweets. (If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I don’t hold back when it comes to sharing photos of my family.) If that is a fun outlet for you or a way for you to feel connected when you don’t have the energy to actually connect, then keep it up.

What I am suggesting is that you be intentional about which sites you sign up for and how wide of a circle of friends/followers/tweeters (can you tell I don’t tweet?) you allow into your virtual space. Social media is a wonderful thing that can add to your life, but if you never edit the constant inflow, it will start to morph into a plague that eats away at your soul (A bit much? Maybe not). Pare down your subreddits to just the ones that excite you. Hide or unfriend your Facebook friends that bring you down. Don’t sign up for the latest and greatest social media if you already feel overwhelmed by how often you are staring at a screen. Reduce the amount of boards you have on Pinterest so that you will be inspired when you look at them.

These sites are meant to add to our lives, not take over our lives. By decluttering your social media, you will get more out of these sites and you will avoid wasting your precious time on cat videos (unless you’re into that kind of thing).

SHUSH YOUR NOTIFICATIONS

Turn off your damn notifications. Push notifications are exactly what they say they are, pushy. Do you really need to know that someone liked your photo on Instagram while you are eating dinner with your family? Save that shit for the toilet! (For real, that is a great time to check on your likes). Notifications are ugly to look at and make you feel like you are slacking. How backwards is that? Look over here, there are 4 new things happening on Facebook! Two people liked your witty status! Some person you don’t know also congratulated your friend on having a baby! Quiet the noise and be in charge of when you want to check in with your apps instead of letting them be in charge of you.

Drink The Bullet Journal Kool-Aid

“We have to externalize our thoughts to declutter our mind” – Ryder Carroll

Do you have random lists scattered all around your home? When you go to bed, do you think of everything you should have done that day, but didn’t? Do you miss the simplicity of pen and paper? Bring on the life changing, brain organizing, the one and only Bullet Journal. Oh how my life has changed for the better since discovering this simple but genius method. I will never buy a one size fits all planner again.

Do yourself a favor and check out this video before reading the ten ways that the Bullet Journal has streamlined my life.

1. CLEAR MIND

Being an adult means your mind is a very busy place.  We are constantly thinking of things we have to do, things we should do, things we forgot to do and it is stressing us out big time. Purging all of those thoughts via pen and paper is incredibly relieving and the first step in sorting through our mental chaos. When you do this regularly, your mind is free to move past those tedious thoughts and onto bigger and better ideas.

Before I discovered the bullet journal, I would get into bed at night and be bombarded with countless, stressful thoughts. What a terrible way to end the day. Now, I find that my mind is free for reflection or to further explore ideas I’m interested in. It is like I am able to bypass the petty aspects of my life and focus in on the substantial parts that have been out of grasp until now.

2. CREATIVE OUTLET

You don’t have to be a wanna be artist to enjoy having a creative outlet. If you loved doodling on your notes back in high school, then you will love adding this artistic aspect to your BUJO (oh yeah, thats a thing). Just go on Pinterest and searchbullet journal to see some exquisite spreads.

Warning: don’t let the beautiful pins stop you from beginning your Bullet Journal. It is fun to add color and design to your journal, but if you go too far down the Pinterest rabbit hole, you might get overwhelmed and never start. I found it was best to start with the simple version that Ryder explains in the video above and then slowly start to add more creative details and spreads as you go along.

3. JOURNALING

I’ve always been a journal keeper… until I had kids. Who has time for that? Well now I do, sort of. I don’t journal consistently, but sometimes I will write a few sentences down at the end of my daily log. I love that I don’t feel pressured to do this every single day and just do it when inspiration hits. I write about a whole range of subjects, but usually I just summarize the best parts of my day in the hopes that I won’t forget them in the future.

I also write about the cute and frustrating things my kids did that day. Ya’ll know that those memories are bound to fade by tomorrow, so jotting them down as they happen is perfect for busy parents. Here is a real example from my BUJO: “On the way home from hanging out in Manayunk, Jane asked us if when she grows up, will we still be her parents. So sweet and sad”. This is super useful if you want to make baby books for your kids, but just can’t find the time or energy to do it. You can refer back to these tidbits when you have the time to get crafty as fuck (you know, in like 15 years or whatever).

4. MOMMY BRAIN FRIENDLY

If you are a mom, you probably can relate to the phrase “mommy brain”. I think I need to rename this phenomenon, “worried I have a brain tumor” because there are some days where I am seriously concerned about my inability to form sentences. It’s a god damn miracle that this blog is even happening people! Seriously, while writing this post, I have had to google what I am trying to say in order to find the word that has escaped me. My three year old occasionally comes up with words faster than I do.

While the bullet journal can’t give me my old brain back, it can help me organize my thoughts and make it so I won’t forget appointments or playdates since I plan out each day the night before.

5. A LIFE REFERENCE

I revisit the pages of my bullet journal time and time again. When I am writing a packing list for my family, I will look back at a previous packing lists to make sure I didn’t forget anything. Every tax season, I scramble to remember how to locate everything I need. This year, I wrote it all down as I completed each task and included detailed notes that I can refer to in the future. This almost makes me excited to do taxes next year (okay no, that will never happen). I can see when I last cleaned the bathrooms or vacuumed so I know which cleaning task I should prioritize. I jot down little things like when I put in new contacts so I know when it’s time for me to open a new set. I also take notes during important phone conversations which has proved to be quite useful. All these points of reference help me stay on top of the little things that otherwise might through the cracks.

6. EVERYTHING IN ONE PLACE

No more looking around the house for that piece of junk mail I scribbled an important number on. Keeping everything in one place is such an obviously great idea, but somehow I never figured this out until I discovered the bullet journal.  I used to record my notes and to-dos all over the place- phone apps, pads of paper, sticky notes, email, the list goes on. Never again. Every idea, list and doodle goes into my bullet journal where I can easily access it when need be.

7. FEELING ACCOMPLISHED

Every time I complete a task, I feel a little more accomplished. Being able to look back at the previously completed tasks makes me feel like I am on top of my shit. When you finish a task, as small as it may be, it motivates you to keep on going. That thrill of accomplishment makes you want to schedule that dentist appointment just so you can “x” off that task. If you decide to put it off, you have to rewrite that task for the next day. After doing this a few days in a row, you finally get the damn thing done just so that you don’t have to write it down for the fifth time. The system works and you will feel good about your day when you review everything you’ve accomplished.

Before I drank the bullet journal kool-aid, I rarely dealt with those pressing issues that should have been high on my to-do list but were too stressful to focus on. If I couldn’t manage my daily tasks, how the hell was I going to find the motivation to confront the bigger to-dos like finding a new doctor or setting up a Roth IRA account?

Now that I am able to stay on top of my daily chores, I find it less intimidating to add these more consuming tasks to my monthly spread. It also helps that when I add it to a month in my future log, I am not specifying which day I will undertake the task. I am simply setting a goal for myself to get it done sometime within that month. Once it is written there, it is way more likely that I will complete it.

8. IT’S ADAPTABLE

Possibly the best thing about the bullet journal is that it’s adaptable to you and your interests and lifestyle.  Every bullet journal is going to be drastically different because it reflects it’s author and their priorities. Here are some examples of what subjects have made an appearance in my bullet journals: quotes, savings goals, restaurants to try, names to remember (one of my all time favorite ideas- I write down peoples’ names after meeting them in the hopes that it will help my remember them and it totally works), birthdays, packing lists, ideas of things to do with my kids, Christmas gift ideas, my baby’s sleep logs, notes from the books I’m reading, family trees, my home’s floor plan layout, food logs, various fonts to try, things I want to learn more about, cleaning logs… maybe this should be it’s own blog post. My point is, there are so many things you can do with this and you get to pick and choose what works for you. There are no limits and that is why this is the only journal/planner for me.

The structure of the bullet journal is defined by its flexibility. You can start a list on one page and continue it ten pages later. You fill your bullet journal as you go and never have to worry about limited space which is a big concern in other planners. I find this especially useful for my daily log which varies in length throughout the week.

9. UNPLUG

I’ll admit it- I am really bad at unplugging. I am getting better lately, but it still takes a lot of effort to not glance at my phone to see if I missed a text or to check Facebook for the hundredth time. Bullet journaling is a much needed break from screens and power cords. I don’t have to update, download, restart or charge my notebook. It sits there peacefully on my coffee table, waiting until I have a moment to check in and say hi. Pen and paper are comforting and reminiscent of simpler times.

10. YOUR PRIORITIES COME TO THE SURFACE

Have you ever been asked what you want and answered “more time”. I can see exactly where my time is going when I review my bullet journal. All I have to do is look at the tasks, events and appointments that fill the pages and see what needs to go. It is hard to change anything in your life until you examine what you are doing right now. To save money, you need to see where you are spending those paychecks. To lose weight, you need to track your calories in verses calories out. Same thing goes for time. What do your days consist of? Does that make you happy? Or do you need to do some life editing? (Check out this post I wrote about how to do just that).

I hope these insights into how the bullet journal has streamlined my life motivates you to give it a try. You don’t need a fancy notebook, (although if you want one I highly suggest the very popular dotted Leuchtturm) and if you give it a go, you might find that you will be able to sleep a little better at night.

If I can’t convince you, maybe Ryder Carroll can. Check out this TED talk by the bullet journal creator:

HAVE YOU ALREADY DRANK THE BUJO KOOL-AID? SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCE IN THE COMMENT SECTION BELOW.