Raise your hand if “be more organized” is on your list of 2015 New Year’s resolutions.
If your desktop looks like a minefield of haphazardly strewn files, you have 12,587 unread emails and you’re still running iOS 7.something on your iPhone, spending time to overhaul your digital life is an easy way to get a head start on your organization goals.
1. Upgrade software, programs and apps
If you’ve been pressing “remind me tomorrow” on those software update notifications for the past three months, now’s the time to buckle down and spend an hour or so getting up to speed.
Not only is this helpful for increasing productivity (your programs will run more smoothly and you won’t need to take the time to upgrade if you’re given a timely task that requires the latest version of Office), it’s also a security concern to run old programs on your computer or smartphone; updates often contain security patches.
Set a goal: Stop putting off software upgrades — give yourself a three-day time limit for making updates.
2. Cut the cords — and organize the ones you can’t get rid of
“Cord-cutting” is an increasingly common practice that involves saying sayonara to traditional cable packages and switching to services such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Instant Video,Apple TV and Roku.
Networks like HBO are wise to the trend as well, as evidenced by the company’s recent announcement of a standalone HBO Go package, which will become available in the U.S. in 2015. If you’re looking to jump on the cord cutting bandwagon, check out this helpful guide.
While cord cutting in the sense of ditching your cable company can eliminate some clutter from your life (not to mention hours on the phone with Time Warner), you’re likely still stuck with a mess of cords — in the more literal sense — for your gaming systems, entertainment center and desk.
If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by the knotted mess of wires in your living room or office, products like these “cordies” from Quirky or these colorful cable drops from Poppin can help you stay organized.
Set a goal: Go through everything that’s plugged in under your desk and in your living room, and figure out what can be consolidated or unplugged — you’ll save on your electric bill and eliminate an eyesore.
3. Organize your desktop and browsers, and clear the cobwebs from your files
If you get a headache just thinking about the mess of icons on your desktop, it’s probably time to dedicate a few hours to a detox. Below are a few programs that can help with this tedious process:
Fences: For PC users, Fences is one of the most widely used tools for organizing your desktop. The program places your shortcuts and icons into resizable, shaded “fences” on your desktop, which allows for easy organization, control and customization.
Tiles: The program helps you manage, view and organize all your running applications. Add or design your own skins for custom stylizations.
Synchronize! Pro: Mac users can download a free trial of this program for easy file synchronization and utility backup.
ObjectDock and DockMod: A sleek replacement for your Windows task bar and one of the most popular programs to date, ObjectDock allows you to add a custom, animated dock to your desktop. DockMod is a similar program available for Mac.
OneTab: This Chrome add-on is a lifesaver if you consistently have multiple tabs open in your browser, and it helps with organization as well as saves memory.
Dashlane, LastPass or 1password: Each of these password keepers enables users to store all their passwords in one location for easy access and maximum security.
For a more general overhaul, CCleaner is another highly recommended program for getting rid of temp files and it can clear up a surprising amount of space on your hard drive. It’s currently available for both Mac and Windows in free and professional versions.
Beyond software, apps and browser extensions, it’s a good idea to sort through your old files and figure out what should stay, and what can be dragged to the trash. (Mac users can locate files that haven’t been opened in, say, a year on Time Machine, or by sorting by “Date Last Opened” in Finder.
On a PC, you can accomplish this by opening your Documents folder and sorting by “Date Modified.”) Consider purchasing an external hard drive or online cloud storage space and upload your old files, then delete them from your laptop or desktop to create more space.
Set a goal: Pledge to close all your tabs and completely shut down your computer every night.
4. Organize your smartphone
Android users have a multitude of options for customizing their phone’s home screen, including veteran apps like LauncherPro and fan favorites like Google Now Launcher andEverythingMe. While similar options for iPhone screen customizations are limited, there are a variety of creative ways you can organize your apps and photos.
Brewster is a helpful tool for organizing and syncing your contacts, and it includes helpful features like adding photos to contacts, syncing contacts across multiple devices and finding connections on other apps such as WhatsApp and Snapchat. For photos, try Clean (for iOS), an app that helps you easily sort through, categorize and delete all the photos taking up valuable space on your smartphone. If you just can’t say goodbye to all those selfies, try backing up old pics on Carousel, an online gallery app by Dropbox for photos and videos.
Set a goal: When the day is done, put your smartphone away an hour before bedtime.Studies show that too much screen time before bed can hinder your quality of sleep.
5. Cut clutter from your inbox
Few things in life are as stressful as an overstuffed inbox. Below are three tools to help you cut down on inbox overload.
- Unroll.Me: Easily unsubscribe from unwanted email lists in bulk with this simple service, and roll up the ones you do want into a daily digest.
- Google Inbox: Currently in invite-only status, users of Google’s new app Inbox (for Gmail) are raving about its ability to help you bundle messages and achieve the seemingly impossible — inbox zero.
- Mailstrom: Another inbox cleanser, Mailstrom promises to help you “power through” your inbox to remove thousands of emails quickly.
Set a goal: Aim to keep only the completely necessary emails in your inbox, and file or delete everything else. Unsubscribe from at least three junk email newsletters.