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Declutter that digital lifestyle

Posted 5 years ago in Tech by Gary Turner
Posted by Gary Turner

Now that the champagne’s done and the last party popper has popped its last I’m sorry to tell you that the time has come to face down another new year.

So, here are my top five tips for cleaning up what might have become for many a wreck of a digital lifestyle and in doing so, ensure you face the year fully defragged, optimized and with the kind of laser sharp focus that will ensure that you grab 2013 with both hands.

1. Tune-up Twitter

Be honest. Unless you enjoy hurting small animals, nobody likes unfollowing people on Twitter, particularly people you’ve actually met or know in meatspace. Unfollowing family members is a real toughie. Heaven forfend your follows discover that you unfollowed them never mind the the perma-dread of the crushing guilt that you’ll feel when you eventually bump into them again them and their first words to you are “You unfollowed me!” – this actually happened to me and awkward doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Which is why you now follow 15,000 people who litter your feed with photos of their homemade egg and chips. Or cats wearing plastic antlers – which admittedly are actually very cute at first.

Enter anthropologist Robin Dunbar whose theory Dunbar’s Number says that we humans are incapable of maintaining stable social relationships with more than 150 people. The full Brainiac definition is here – but suffice to say that you now have the perfect excuse to embark on a New Year’s Twitter cull.

But what about all those people you’ll cull and whose juicy news and snippets will no longer appear on your stream? The good news is that providing the 150 or so people you do choose to follow are actually interesting or connected, they’ll curate all the important and interesting stuff for you by retweeting it. So, not only do you get a better signal to noise ratio by cutting down the number of people you follow, the quality of that signal is improved, too. And if you’re worried about bitter revenge unfollows that might ensue when those people you unfollow discover the fact, then don’t fret. They’re likely stuck in the same surreality vortex you’re escaping, and the whole shebang is in fact a house of cards and you’d be doing everyone a service. Honestly. Let it go.

As a footnote, having culled your followers I found it was a good idea to practice a one out, one in approach to adding new people. If someone’s gone quiet or too spammy, then chuck them out give someone else a shot at permanent membership of your list.

Go on, do it. You have my and Mr Dunbar’s permission.

2. Get Appy Clappy

I remember when I got my first iPhone in 2008, it was magical. It was like the software equivalent giving a five course meal to someone who’d been stranded in the Sahara for a month.

Today it’s different – the honeymoon period has long since passed and If I’m honest about it, there are probably 10-15 apps I’d really, really miss if they weren’t there – the rest is just noise. So, much like Twitter, I’m deleting pages 3 onwards from my iPhone and as the year progresses I’ll opt-in and add apps back as and when I need them. No more app parties, no loading apps just in case I find myself bored in a doctor’s waiting room.

Just a nice, crisp, uncluttered smartphone.

3. Yes, You Can Have Too Many Backups

Ever since my wife unwittingly switched off my PC late one night in 2001 as it was just 22% of the way through a dangerous hard disk re-partitioning process (I’m a nerd, what can I say) and in doing so nuked the contents of my hard disk which included variously the only digital photos of a safari holiday in Kenya, I’ve been super paranoid about backing up.

To the extent that I now have gigabytes of unnecessary duplicate photos, MP3s, you name it – I’ve got 15 of them.

So, last year I invested in some de-duping software and jumped in head first and I’ve never looked back.

There’s a certain kind of warm New Year’s OCD glow that comes only when you know your entire digital life story is perfectly ordered, filed and de-duped to perfection.

4. First Contact

Same goes for all your personal and business contact records, whether maintained in your chosen address book app or in Xero. Believe it or not but a long time ago, like in 2003, accounting software used not to be able to merge two duplicate contact records for fear of fouling up your transaction databases. No so today.

The first week of January is usually quiet and therefore the perfect time to de-cruft all your contact records and add missing information like phone numbers and email addresses. Not only will you feel good, you’ll probably help bring down your debtors days number a good bit by ensuring your invoices route straight to the right person or department first time.

5. Detox That Inbox

Like any self-respecting digital native – I’ve bought a several metric tonnes of stuff online. It’s amazing – you just click your mouse button and stuff magically appears on your doorstep the following day. How did we survive before?

However, there’s a nasty yang to that lovely ying in the form of the countless spammy marketing emails from companies you’ve bought stuff from, and that you somehow feel a perverted sense of obligation to keep – like a kind of legitimate spam. Last year during one depressing email session I estimated that around 90% of the unread emails in my inbox were of exactly this kind. So, stiffening my upper lip I resolved to take the time (it was only seconds when I got into it) to scroll to the bottom of each one and go through their unsubscribe processes. Some are clunky, some are smooth – I found that how smooth the unsubscribe experience you’re presented with is, actually influences how good you feel about them as a supplier.

Either way, they stop sending you those promotional emails and you feel good about checking your email again.


Anyway, I hope that even just one of these tips inspires you to do something digitally different in 2013 –  if you’ve got any other tips to share then please comment away…

And have a great, prosperous and uber-tidy 2013.

One comment

Richard Adams
January 11, 2013 at 5.59 am

So true Gary, picking apps, followers and a general tidy up of systems is high on our list of priorities for 2013. Starting February, something to do with tax returns in Jan is holding us up.

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