Do you have Spring fever? Are you craving warmth, sunshine and Bar-B-Qs in the backyard?
You’re not alone! The shedding of your winter coat for a sundress and flip flops is always a welcomed time of year. And while you may or may not undertake the annual tradition of deep cleaning your house, it may be a good idea this year to sweep out some digital dust.
If you are online in any capacity, chances are your computer & phone could use a good Spring Cleaning. The wider your digital footprint the more opportunities hackers have to access your information and wreak havoc on your life. Cleaning up isn’t just for pure satisfaction, but also for security.
Even if you are a very organized person (like me) and try to be mindful of what information you put online, there are still some things you could probably sure up and leave behind.
So are you ready for a little Digital Spring Cleaning? Below are some suggestions and tips to get started. (no rubber gloves required)
Delete Old Accounts
This might be one of the most important ones to focus on. If you do nothing else on the list I highly recommend spending some time on this one. So many sites these days require you to set up an account to explore or test out their product. Chances are you have hundreds of accounts out there which means hundreds of chances to be hacked. You may not be able to remember all of them, and that’s okay, but do a little brainstorming and I bet you can come up with a handful of places to start.
If you work online you’ve probably created accounts for multiple sites to test of their products and systems before you decided on one to go with. If you have picked your favorite ___________ (Fill in the blank: accounting, CRM, social media scheduling, email, etc) go ahead and delete your account from the other ones you tested.
It’s going to be harder to remember the ones from 5-15 years ago so it may be helpful to start with more recent accounts and work your way backgrounds.
In writing this article I tried to think back really far to accounts I may have had in high school or college. I saw something about Myspace pop up in an article, which I haven’t used in over 15 years, but I decided to see if I could retrieve my account information. All it took was my email address to reset my password, login and then promptly delete my account. Even if you don’t remember your login information, with a few extra steps you may be able to access an old profile. (And if you were a big user of AIM back in the day, good news! AIM was discontinued as of Dec 15, 2017 along with all of your data so that is one account you don’t have to worry about. 🙂 )
Unsubscribe from Mailing Lists
I do this frequently, but even I had a few mailing lists that I decided to unsubscribe from recently. If I find myself constantly deleting the emails and never really caring what could be in them, then it’s time to unsubscribe or change the mailing preferences (if that’s an option).
If you’re not quite ready to unsubscribe, there are also services out there like unroll.me that group all of your subscription emails and allow you to check them once a day cutting down on your inbox notifications. They also make it easy for you to unsubscribe if you decide to do so.
Do you use the same few passwords for everything? Has is been more than 2 years since you’ve changed/updated/created new passwords?
Well as much as changing passwords is a pain, it’s the best thing you can do to keep your information safe. If nothing else change your passwords for the sites that hold your most sensitive information like your banking login, e-commerce store, email, etc.
If you have trouble keeping track of your passwords (or thinking of strong passwords) I highly recommend websites like LastPass* or 1Password to keep track of all of your passwords. They will even generate random, strong passwords for you to keep your information extra safe.
*I wrote an entire blog post just on the benefits of Last Pass.
Clean up your Browser Bookmarks
If I come across an interesting article or potential helpful product I want to remember I always bookmark it for later. Want to know how many of those pages I even remember I bookmarked? Not very many. I have my bookmark folders organized by category so I can usually easily find what I’m looking for, but sometimes even I get overwhelmed by the pages I’ve starred to return to later.
Which is why usually a couple of times a year I clean up my bookmarks. I open the Bookmarks Manager and I go through each folder deleting pages that are no longer useful and reading some of those articles I always intended to get back to. It’s usually good if I give myself a good chunk of time to go through them all as the reason some of them were bookmarked in the first place is because I didn’t have the time to dedicate to truly reading through the information.
And if your bookmarks aren’t already organized and are just a mess? This the perfect opportunity to categorize the ones you want to keep as you delete the unnecessary ones.
Clean up your Desktop
Similar to organizing your bookmarks, keeping your desktop cleaned up tends to fall to the wayside when you get busy. I have 3 main folders I keep on my desktop and within each of those are other sub folders to help documents I need to keep readily available.
If you haven’t gone through all of your documents recently this is a good time to sort, re-organize and maybe archive documents that won’t be needed anytime soon. You can use free services like Dropbox or Google Drive to store documents and clean up space on your computer.
After all, a clean desktop is a happy desktop 🙂
Delete Unused Apps from Your Phone
It’s not all about your computer. As most of use probably spend just as much if not more time on our phones. Unless you are low on phone storage and are constantly prompted to delete apps, images, and music to make space, I’m going to guess you have at least a few apps that you never use on your phone.
Spring cleaning is all about decluttering and giving your digital life a good thorough cleanse. On top of deleting unused apps (I suggest starting with finding 5 and see how that goes), you can also delete old text messages, those 50 photos your toddler took of their leg, and music/podcasts you no longer need.
As you go through your Digital Spring Cleaning you may get overwhelmed, tired, dive into information rabbit holes and feel like giving up. Just like your house, it’s good to tackle one room at a time. Pick one part of your computer or phone to tackle before moving on to the next. It will feel better to fully clean one room than do all the rooms half way.
AND if you are really struggling to stay focused, I suggest setting a timer either on your phone or computer in 25-30 minute increments and taking a 5 minute break (known as the Pomodoro Technique). This will help you stay focused and accomplish a good amount of digital cleaning. And if you don’t get through it all? That’s okay, there’s always next Spring!