Get your life back! How to do an effective digital de-clutter.

I started the New Year* with a decisive and vicious de-clutter of my digital life. Two weeks later I have literally hours more free time and a lot less stress.

Towards the end of last year, especially over Christmas I noticed my Facebook usage had plummeted, this is a good thing as Facebook can be an inescapable black hole of time. I hadn’t lost any online friends, in fact, I’d gained a few so I was wondering why I was logging in less** and sharing less and less on the site.

“Who is the more foolish; the fool or the fool who follows him?”

For the most part I like Facebook, but I had been feeling lately that is was becoming very business orientated (and no wonder, it has to generate an income) and this, for me, was the problem I had ‘liked’ lots of pages and they were now taking over my news feed. Endless competitions, pointless product updates and promoted fake messages of goodwill were hiding the content I wanted to see… updates from my friends. You know, real people, the people that add value to our lives! Their photos, messages and shared content was being obscured my marketing messages and I was not only allowing this to happen, I had invited it!

Time to change…

Now, I didn’t want to just simply ‘unlike’ all the business pages I was following, as some of them do add value and I had originally liked them for a reason. So I gave them a week to impress me…

During the first week of January, I logged into Facebook a couple (or more) times a day… If there were any posts from business’ I read them and then clicked though to their Facebook page. If none of their last 5 posts, engaged, interested me or benefited me in any way …they were gone.

The first day I ‘unliked’ 15 pages, it turns out January is a great time to do this. Lots of dormant pages start posting Christmas/New Year messages, if I haven’t missed you posting for a year …then I don’t need you.

At the end of the Facebook cull, I had unliked about 35 pages*** and I don’t miss them.

All of a sudden Facebook became relevant again… posts from my fiends dominated my timeline and I instantly felt engaged with it again. Win!

Then I thought to myself, if it worked on Facebook then perhaps it could also work for Twitter and my burgeoning inbox!

I’m not following a huge number of people/businesses on Twitter and using Tweetdeck helps to filter out some tweets – but I had been noticing I was skipping though a lot of tweets.

The Twitter cull was easy, if I skipped past a tweet while checking my timeline, I’d go back and take a look at the tweet and tweeter and, like Facebook, if their recent tweets didn’t interest me… UNFOLLOW

Remember, Twitter is a fundamentally different experience to Facebook, it’s more immediate and more disposable if you miss a tweet or 20 it doesn’t matter. It also became clear to me that it’s ok to unfollow and follow people as often as you want.

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Don’t get emotionally attached… they’re not!

I thought my inbox was going to be harder. I get approx 150 emails a day to my work and home emails. I work at a design agency and part of my job involves designing email newsletters. When I first got this job I subscribed to a lot of emails, so I could keep up with design trends. Over time these had built up to a huge amount of incoming email (not to mention all the crap you don’t susbcribe to.. the genuine spam)
In fact Email was easy; I created a folder in Outlook and every email I received that I didn’t read and/or click, got put into this folder as soon as each sender had sent me 3 unread emails… I clicked the unsubscribe button.**** I also added any email from companies that sent me more than one email per day.

This morning I’m pleased to say my inbox only had 23 emails… and 20 of those were either from clients/friends or were just plain relevant.

A key thing I’ve learnt is that you shouldn’t get emotionally attached to the people you follow (with the exception of your real friends… you SHOULD definitely be emotionally attached to them!), they are just businesses trying to sell make you buy things. It’s OK to follow, unfollow, and follow again if you feel like it. You are not committed to them so don’t clog your digital life up with meaningless sales messages***** . Be thorough, be decisive be ruthless.. take charge and claim your digital life back now!

The three rules of a one week digital de-clutter

1

IF YOU DON’T READ IT YOU DON’T NEED IT

If you’re skipping past Tweets, deleting emails without opening them or scrolling past repeated items on your Facebook timeline, then that content is wasted on you and it is nothing more than digital junk. Too much digital junk distracts you and you’ll end up missing the posts you need and want. Over your week if you’ve skipped past three or more posts or emails from the same business, then they are noise. UNFOLLOW/UNLIKE/UNSUBSCRIBE

Remember: You can easily like/follow/subscribe again if their content improves…

2

DOES IT ADD VALUE TO YOUR LIFE?

Look at the content these business’ are sending you.. does it bring any sort of benefit to you? Is there any financial gain, prizes to be won, knowledge or information …does it at least make you happy? No… then unless you enjoy being ‘marketed to’, you need to remove them from your digital life. If someone you follow brings nothing, it means they want to take – take – take, so don’t give them! UNFOLLOW/UNLIKE/UNSUBSCRIBE

Remember: A lot of companies liek to offer contests, and money off vouchers to get your ‘follow’ but once you’re there, you’re just a marketing target. Get out and don’t look back!

2

WILL YOU MISS IT?

Do you look forward to tweets/emails posts from certain companies? If you answered no, then that company should be on your shortlist for casting into the fiery pits of hell****. Ask yourself if I hadn’t read that… would it matter? I think you may be surprised that most of the time your going to say ‘no’! If you won’t miss it.. get rid of it, it’s nothing more than a distraction from the important stuff going on!FOLLOW/UNLIKE/UNSUBSCRIBE

Remember: If you can’t remember why you followed them in the first place, then it’s time to bid them adieu.

So far, in 3 weeks, I’ve unfollowed/unliked and unsubscribed approx 150 digital friends and companies. I have literally gained about 2 hours of my week back… that’s a huge amount of time, works out to about 4 days a year. Go me!

PS: Of course, there are always some companies that just won’t leave you alone…

* That’s space year 2013 for anyone reading this in the distant future… or past!

** I actually use Facebook legitimately for work, so I can never escape it completely.

*** That’s more than half!

**** Unless it genuine spam, the unsubscribe button does work. Press it.

***** To be fair to businesses using social, they’d probably rather you left too so they can concentrate more on their engaged clients and get some kind of ROI!

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