Experts say that having a clean virtual world can be just as important for your mental health and productivity, while also helping boost your cybersecurity at a time when hacks, phishing and ransomware attacks are becoming more sophisticated in trying to access your digital data.
Here are some tips they recommend to clean up your digital world.
Have a ‘strategy’
Clare Kumar, who helps both businesses and individuals get organized from Toronto, said the best place to start for those looking to clean up their digital files is to have a strategy.
She admits that it can be overwhelming at first just to get started and having a plan can help.
In terms of deleting, she recommends starting with very big files and the obvious ones that you really don’t need just to get the ball rolling, then moving on to the more nuanced ones that might require more thinking. She also suggests inversing the deleting process and highlighting what you’d like to keep instead, so “you don’t have to worry so much about the rest.”
Tracey Silliker, a professional organizer based in Alberta, recommends getting over the initial hurdle of getting started by setting aside 10 minutes at first, and if you’re able to do that, add another 10 minutes, and so on. She also recommends picking one area to start with, such as your email or photos, and just focusing on organizing that to reduce the pressure of the task.
“Just pick one to start because you can’t successfully do every single area at the same time — it will be too overwhelming,” she said.
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Both Silliker and Kumar are a fan of folders for organizing, which can be separated by subject matter or year, such as for photos. Silliker said to think of it like a physical filing cabinet that has sections to it.
Both Kumar and Silliker recommend being fairly liberal when deleting to clear space. Kumar said to go through your email by year, set aside the important messages that you need, then delete the rest.
Both organizers also said to set reminders to delete files once they’re no longer needed, with the option to even put that reminder in the file name.
By freeing up digital space, you’ll thank yourself later when you’re in a stressful moment and need the room for whatever you’re doing, they said.
“It’s short-term pain for long-term gain,” Kumar said.
Declutter to boost your security
Digital spring cleaning can also be beneficial to your digital security, according to Lisa Pleggemier, the executive director at the National Cybersecurity Alliance based in Austin, Texas.
“The more data you have, the more you have to work to protect it,” she said. “It’s usually good practice not to hang on to anything more than what you absolutely need.”
Pleggemier recommends looking through phone apps you don’t use anymore and deleting them, but notes that for many, you actually have to delete your account within the app before deleting the app itself to truly get rid of it, since companies have a tendency of holding onto your data when they can.
Combing and deleting old, unused apps is also a good way to boost security, considering some may have been compromised by hacks and you may not even know it, Kumar added.
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Then, there are the dreaded passwords and how to manage them. Pleggemier recommends a password manager to keep track of all of them and to enable two-factor authentication when apps offer it.
Password managers allow you to have complex, harder-to-crack passwords that can more easily be kept track of, she said, which is important considering that if one password is leaked, hackers now can use automation tools to see if it applies to any other services.
When it comes to social media, Pleggemier recommends going through the different platforms’ privacy settings, as they may have changed without your knowledge, while Silliker recommends checking the people and groups you’re following and letting go of those that you can do away with.
“Just being mindful of what you’re consuming,” Silliker said. “It’s OK to unfollow.”
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