9 May 2014

Digital excuses




Excuses and excuses for digital clutter

 

Do any of these excuses sound familiar?

  •  “I might need that someday!”
  •  “I could use that again if I started doing such-and-such.”
  •  “It’s worth so much money, I can’t just get rid of it.”
  •  “But so-and-so gave that to me, and I don’t want to hurt their feelings.”
  •  “That’s what I have to remember so-and-so by!”
  •  “I like it, I just don’t have a place to put it yet. But when I move…”

digital disorganization

We often use the same excuses in the digital world that we do in the “physical stuff” realm.

What other excuses do you have for hanging on to digital items you might no longer need?

28 April 2014

Information Diet




Information Diet – Cutting down your intake

tape measurer
Have you considered a low-information diet?

Reduce the number of people you follow on Twitter or Facebook. Eliminate blogs you are no longer interested in from your reading list or RSS feed. Set up filters on your email to keep those unwanted emails from your inbox. Unsubscribe from mailing lists you don’t want to receive.

In these days of digital it can be difficult to see just how much stuff we have; how much weight we are carrying around. A two foot stack of papers on the floor next to your desk feels more immediate and urgent than 50 unread messages in your Inbox. But are they the same thing, just in different formats?

What are other things you could trim from your daily information intake?

Image Alan Alfaro(CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) used via Creative Commons

24 March 2014

Spring Cleaning for your computer




Have you cleaned your downloads folder lately?

For Windows users, most everyone will find a Downloads folder on their system. This is where you computer usually saves items downloaded from the Internet such as installs for programs, images, documents etc. Anything you click on to download usually ends up here.

A regular cleaning of those folder will help free up space on your computer, but it will also make it easier to find new things you download – saving you time!

Is there junk in your folder that can go away?
Photo from Barret Anspach CC BY 2.0

31 October 2013

Tag! You’re it!




How often have you saved a file – a document, a photo, a music clip – then promptly lost track of where exactly it went? Or maybe you are trying to find that Excel report you created for last year’s medical expenses. Depending on your organizing system, just looking in folders and on your desktop might not do the trick.

Have you considered using tags as another way to organize your digital files? This is a method of using keywords or descriptive words to label a document. While it might be easy to put all documents and files relating to your upcoming vacation in the same folder. But what if some of those documents also relate to a business trip? It is usually not advisable for a document to ‘live’ in more than one place.

This is where tags can come in handy. Another word for tags is keywords.

A real life example would involve my music collection. I have mp3’s of music featured in the show Supernatural. Originally, all this music lived in the folder called ‘Supernatural Music’. However, I ran into trouble when I merged folders with my husband who organizes his music by performer. It made sense to change my set up, however, I knew that if I lost my ‘Supernatural Music’ folder, I would never remember all the songs that belonged there. So first, I tagged each mp3 with the keyword ‘Supernatural Music’, then I moved those songs into their appropriate performer folders. Now when I want to listen to music from Supernatural, I can just search by ‘Supernatural’ and all those tagged files should show up.

Ready to try it out yourself?

There are two ways you can attach tags to a document:
1. While you are creating the file. In most programs (Word, Excel etc.) once you have a document open you go to the ‘File’ menu choice, then select ‘Properties’ from the options. This displays a pop up window which allows you to add author name, title, comments, and keywords. You would enter the keywords of choice, then ‘Ok’ which takes you back to your document. On a Mac, you would enter your tag choices under ‘Comments’. Mac Screenshot
2. You can also attach tags to a document after you have created it – say the next day, next week, etc. To add tags in this manner, you find the file you are interested in tagging. Right click the file, which will bring up a short options list. Again, go to ‘Properties’, then ‘Details’, then add your keywords. On a Mac, you would again right click the file, select ‘Get Info’, then add your keywords under ‘Spotlight Comments’. Tagging Files

Tags are a great way of organizing when you have items that fit in ‘more than one bucket’. By tagging a file, you can store it in one place, but access it in a variety of ways.

Questions? As always, just give us a call!

12 May 2013

Digital Hoarding




We know what physical clutter looks like–stacks of newspapers, dusty knick-knacks, piles of clothes. But computer clutter is also becoming an increasing problem.

What does computer clutter – or digital hoarding at one extreme – look like? It can be tens of thousands of emails, old photos, and music files taking up hard drive space, making it difficult to find needed information quickly. How many of your video or music files have you looked at or listened to more than once? Do you have hundreds of photos from an event you don’t even recall? How about pictures with people you don’t like in them?

Lack of organization is part of the problem, but for some people it goes beyond that. Have you considered getting a new computer since your hard drive is almost full? Do you continue buying portable disk drives because you keep running out of space? Are you overly excited by the unlimited possibilities of cloud storage?

The problem has only gotten worse since digital storage has gotten less costly. These days you can buy a terabyte hard drive for less than $150 dollars. How big is a terabyte? You can store 2,000 hours of music or 300 hours of high quality video on a terabyte drive. That is a lot of stuff!

So how do you simplify your digital life?

  • Make Choices: You aren’t required to be on every social network or subscribed to every newsletter. Figure out the ones that make the most sense for you and eliminate the others. Consider using a RSS reader to keep up with blogs you follow. Do a quick sort on your digital photos to delete those out of focus or just plain bad.
  • Sift through emails: Delete those you won’t need, archive others, and develop a strategy for moving forward.
  • For computer files, use the same category names on your computer as you do on paper. By using the same structure and folder style as your paper files, it may be easier to find a computer document and put things away in both places.
  • Label your files deliberately. Even though each paper in your file cabinet doesn’t need a name, every file in your computer does. A file name should be descriptive and may need to include: document title, creation date, author, version etc. You should be able to find the digital file you need without having to open it. (For those of you in the advanced course, you can also use metadata to tag your files…more on that later!)

Sometimes the amount of stuff in our digital life can seem overwhelming. But take it one piece at a time and before long you will have computer clutter under control!

Big thanks to Joshua Zerkel, Certified Professional Organizer® and owner of Custom Living Solutions in San Francisco, for writing the original article this newsletter is based off.
**Image by Flickr user psd, used via Creative Commons.

23 January 2013

Password Management and You




Every website you visit these days seems to want you to sign in, or sign up, for something. This requires you to create a user name and password and it seems every site has different directions. Some want all lowercase letters, some want letters and numbers, some allow special characters, some hate special characters. It’s enough to drive you nuts! How are you supposed to remember all those variations?

One easy solution is to use the same password for every site. But…this is definitely not something that is recommended. Why? If someone figured out that one password then they would have access to everything! I know several people who use the same password for Facebook as they do their email account. When someone was able to hack their Facebook account they also had access to their email account, which resulted in some crazy emails being sent to all contacts.

So if you don’t use the same password for everything, then you are stuck remembering different passwords for different sites. Add those details to all the numbers, dates, and ‘stuff’ floating around in your brain and how are you supposed to recall anything? Use a password manager!

In this newsletter I’m going to talk about two different methods for managing your online passwords and logins – traditional notebook and online vault

The first is the traditional method of keeping a password management book. This could be a spiral bound notebook, a small moleskin notebook, a index card box etc. in which you write down the website, the login you selected and the password you use.

  • Pros: easy to access and easy to add to
  • Cons: not very secure. Of course you could store your notebook in a safe spot, but unless it is a locked diary or written in code, realistically anybody could find it and use it. I would imagine most of us using password books keep them relatively close to our main computer.

The second less traditional method is utilizing on online password management vault or password manager. This is an online storage site, often a ‘cloud’, where you store all of your passwords, using one primary access password to retrieve the information you are after.

  • Pros: Apparently now there are some managers which have smart phone apps as well!, you can access the passwords from anywhere, there is only one password you need to remember. All your passwords, one place, easy access.
  • Cons: As with anything you put online, there is always the possibility the program/cloud will go away. This happens when companies fold or change owners. If this was to happen, all your stored passwords would be gone and you may need to start from scratch. Also, what if you forget that one all encompassing password? How would you access the rest of your passwords? What if your computer was down?

Regardless of which type of password management system you choose to use, it is vital to keep it up to date. Cross out or delete old passwords, make sure your writing is legible if utilizing a notebook, be consistent with recording new passwords and which sites they are related to. A secondary benefit of a password manager is related to estate management. When you are no longer here, will someone be able to access your online accounts to close them out?

For information on online password managers, CNET does a great job of reviewing those available. Many are free, although pay attention because there are a few which have a cost associated with them. Maybe you will never encounter an online hacker…but wouldn’t you rather be safe?

*image by Flickr user stebulus, used via Creative Commons*

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