Your attention and your time is a commodity, and marketers everywhere, like me, are competing for it. Forbes estimates the average American is exposed to between 4,000 to 10,000 marketing messages per day! This leads to an enormous amount of clutter, both physical and digital.
Too much clutter is bad for our emotional and physical health. Clutter collects dust, mold and other toxins. Clutter can cause anxiety, depression, and interferes with our ability to be productive. WebMD even reports that clutter can make us gain weight, as there’s an association between a life of consumption and too much to eat.
Clutter also causes us to waste time and keeps us from focusing. I have coaching clients that report up to 50% of time on task spent looking for things among the clutter rather than producing. I’m talking about both physical and digital clutter here. Our phones, our computer desktops and our inboxes have become more and more cluttered as we try to process all these marketing messages and tasks.
Take push notifications for example. The average person receives 46 app push notifications from their phone every day. If we spend just one second on each notification, over the course of the year we’ve spend 279 minutes, or more than 4.5 hours looking at them! Each time we allow ourselves to be distracted by those little pop ups or dings, it takes us time to refocus on the task at hand. More time lost.
It’s no wonder we’re desperately trying to carve out a little time for ourselves away from it all, and employing executive coaches like me to help us do it. If you’re spending more time looking for things than you are producing, and if you’re finding yourself buried under clutter, try these simple fixes to get your digital and real life back under control.
Unsubscribe From Emails You Don’t Read
“Would you like your receipt emailed to you” says the store clerk innocently enough. Pretty soon you’re getting weekly emails from that store. Downloaded that white paper that you never read, and gave them your email to do it? More marketing emails. Soon your inbox is clogged, and you’re losing precious time deleting them to get to the actionable emails.
If you notice you’re deleting emails from the same sender again and again, take a second and unsubscribe. Think of it as a favor to the marketer too. If you never open their emails, help them increase their open rate by removing yourself.
I’ve noticed recently that gmail is starting to prompt me to unsubscribe to promotional emails I never open, which is handy new feature. If you’re a gmail user take advantage of this.
Turn off Push Notifications
I am a social media marketer, so I understand the value of knowing immediately when someone has commented on a Facebook post or shared your Instagram story. Still, I oversee a team that manages dozens of Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, Instagram accounts, LinkedIn pages, you get the idea. For my sanity, I had to turn off at least the sound of those notifications. I still get them, but I check them on MY timeline. It was as easy as long pressing the notification in the dropdown shade and choosing silent. Ahh peace at last!
Pro tip – no one else wants to hear your phone dinging either. Trust me.
Delete Apps You Don’t Use
Every once in awhile, go through your browser extensions and the apps on your phone and remove the ones you aren’t using. This will improve your device performance and reduce the number of unnecessary notifications you receive. If you’re a Google Chrome user you can check your extensions here. Delete the ones you aren’t using.
Open Your Mail Over the Recycling Bin
I personally follow the “touch it once philosophy.” As soon as mail comes in, I sort, open what isn’t junk and process it immediately, either by filing, or putting in my desk inbox to handle when I log onto my computer. Avoid the temptation to put it back down in a pile to “handle later.” Later becomes days or even weeks later, and now there’s a huge pile to deal with. Overwhelmed yet? Follow the touch it once philosophy and that pile of mail will cease to exist.
Set Up Online Billing for Household Bills
Speaking of cutting down on mail, whenever possible enroll in digital delivery for regular household bills and if the vendor, or your bank, offers an autopay feature, use it. Automate as many of these menial tasks as possible and you’ll save hours over the course of a year.
Cancel Magazine and Catalog Subscriptions
Did I mention cutting down on mail? Magazines are available online, and honestly with the advent of Pinterest and Instagram, I find myself less and less interested in magazines since I can curate articles and nice images based on my own interests. Do you feel the same? Save some trees and cancel those subscriptions. No more piles on the stairs, next to the sofa or in the kitchen. Voila!
Delete Internet Bookmarks
It’s as simple as right click, delete. Seconds or minutes spent looking through the dozens you don’t use for the one you do use is time wasted.
Get Rid of Cords and Chargers that Don’t Go To Anything
You know who you are. You think to yourself, someday I might figure out what these go to. No you won’t. Chances are you don’t even own that device any more.
Recycle Hardware Manuals
These are all online now, there’s no need to take up valuable drawer or desk space keeping them. Into the recycling bin they go.
Clean off Your Computer Desktop
Click file, save as, save to desktop. File name? Document 1.
What do you think are the chances you will be able to find that file? Even if you do use a recognizable name, file names are truncated on your desktop, making them nearly impossible to read. Instead, use the time you spend searching for documents to either create a system of folders for storage or develop a naming convention you use consistently so you can search for the files easily.
Speaking of computer folders, get in the habit of deleting old files too. You don’t need that recipe you downloaded in 2011. Doing so will speed up the search time if you are using search.
Clean Out Your Closet
Working from home now? Get rid of all that work wardrobe you are never going to wear. Gained weight? Get rid of the clothes that don’t fit. Each time you see them in your closet you feel guilty, and someone else needs them. If you lose the weight, reward yourself with a few new items that fit in your new size.
Join a Buy Nothing Facebook Group
Many communities have a Buy Nothing group on Facebook, so search for one in your area. Beware though, don’t use this group to accumulate MORE stuff. Use it to give items you no longer need to neighbors that do. This is especially great in neighborhoods with lots of children.
Don’t Buy Things Just Because They Are On Sale
Remember, if a $20 item is on sale for $15, you didn’t save $5. You spent $15. Just because an item is a bargain doesn’t mean you need it or that it has permission to take up valuable real estate in your home.
Use the One in Two Out Rule
Try telling yourself that if you bring something in, two similar items need to go out. If you still really want it, great! If you can’t part with the other two similar items, well you already have two similar items!
Tell Your Friends and Family You Don’t Want Items as Gifts
This one is tough, but important. Remember, friends don’t give other friends clutter. Be honest with your friends and family that you are trying hard to declutter and would rather have a bottle of wine or a gift card to a favorite restaurant than items that add to the clutter.
Lie to Yourself
Wait, what? It’s like this. Energy tends to rise each time you are successful at removing another source of clutter, but if you don’t get started you’ll never see the results. One trick is to tell yourself you are only going to do one drawer, or automate one bill, and do the rest later. What ends up happening is that the success of achieving one small goal creates that energy that spurs you on to the next goal and the next. So if you have to, lie to yourself about how much you plan to do. Stop waiting to feel motivated and start doing it. The motivation comes AFTER the action.
Work with Me
If you find yourself with little time to spare and a huge pile of stuff to go through, I can help. I offer one-one-one coaching sessions to help your reach your goals, whether they are related to clutter, professional growth, communication skills or something else!
What tricks to do you use to cut down on clutter? Let me know in the comments.