brief thoughts on digital clutter

Before I return to the topic of documentation, I want to take a brief moment to discuss digital clutter. We hear that “storage is cheap!” Yes, that’s true. We are also told, “simply search for what you need”. Yes, that is also true. In this post I’m going to challenge you to rethink the “keep everything” policy. Why? One question I’m often asked is how one deals with digital clutter. Clients approach me looking for a magical solution.

I’m sure your hard dive contains multiple drafts of documents you no longer need. With the ease of digital photos, depending on your skill as a photographer you may often take many more photos than the one that is ultimately chosen. My hard drive does.

File storage is low in cost. Searching is somewhat straightforward. But all these extra files are clutter! Try to think of all your photos and documents as if they were physical copies. I don’t think it’s beneficial to keep my first drafts when I’m done. I delete the old ones. If there’s only one final version then I don’t need to take the time to do detective work to determine which is the final document.

There is no magic solution – no artificial intelligence program and no search tools that can handle an endless collection of digital file. The solution is you – set aside time to declutter your inbox; clean out your old documents; purge your catchall folders.

While the technology itself is cheap, there is a cost to you and your work. When you really need to find that important document you wrote a few months ago can you? This is a topic I’ll return to as I discuss ways to manage your technology. With diligence and a systematic approach it’s possible to eliminate this potential headache.