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How to declutter your virtual workspace in 6 easy steps, according to a productivity expert

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Is your desktop a collage of downloads, random documents and endless screenshots? Has your unread email count hit three figures? Organise your virtual workspace and boost your productivity with this simple guide to digital decluttering.

If someone asked to see your desktop right now, what would they find? Chances are, it’s not pretty.

During lockdown, we’ve spent more time on our electronic devices than ever before. On top of working from home and using our laptops to communicate with colleagues, clients and everyone in between, we’ve also been using our devices to catch up with friends via Zoom and tune in to the latest news and entertainment.

As a result of all this, it’s likely your virtual workspaces – including your laptop, phone and any cloud storage you might have – are looking pretty cluttered right now (hands up if you can’t actually see most of your desktop background). And although you might not realise it, having a cluttered workspace – whether that’s online or in real life – can impact your productivity and make it harder for you to concentrate.

During a time when we’re relying on our devices a lot, it’s more important than ever to keep things clean and organised. With this in mind, we asked Dawn George, a certified professional organizer, productivity consultant and Evernote certified consultant, to share her top tips for decluttering our virtual workspace. Here’s what she had to say. 

1. Get your desktop in order     

“Delete unneeded files, create folders and file, file, file,” George says. “Download Evernote (you can start with the free version) and drag files that you want to save but don’t want cluttering your desktop into Evernote’s desktop version where it doesn’t take up any space.”

She continues: “Think of your computer desktop like you would your physical desktop. If it’s covered with documents and junk, it’s hard to find what you need when you need it.”

A desk with a computer
How to declutter your virtual workspace: “Think of your computer desktop like you would your physical desktop. If it’s covered with documents and junk, it’s hard to find what you need when you need it.”

2. Clear out your downloads folder

We’re all guilty of hoarding unnecessary files in our downloads folder; sorting through things will not only make it easier to find newly downloaded files, it’ll also free up some all-important storage space.

“Delete unneeded files and drag files into Evernote’s desktop app that you might need again later,” George says. “You can also use a tool called Duplicate Files Fixer to find and delete duplicate files (photo, audio, etc.) that are often stored in downloads, to free up storage.”

3. Unsubscribe from e-newsletters you no longer read

It really is as simple as it sounds. 

“Searching for the word ‘unsubscribe’ in your email program is an easy way to locate them,” George says.

4. Sort out your inbox

It’s easier said than done, but getting your inbox in order is one of the best things you can do to boost your productivity, especially if you’re working from home and relying on email to communicate with colleagues.

“Delete emails you no longer need and forward emails you want to save to Evernote,” George says. “You can easily find them again using the search feature.”

Once you’ve sorted through your inbox (it’ll be worth it, we promise) you can then implement a system to keep your emails organised in the future. You can find out more about one system called the ‘inbox zero’ approach by checking out our guide, or read up on the email habits of the UK’s most productive women for more ideas.

A woman typing on a laptop
How to declutter your virtual workspace: “Delete emails you no longer need and forward emails you want to save to Evernote.”

5. Uninstall unwanted apps

To save yourself even more storage space, sort through any apps you have downloaded onto your device and delete those that you no longer use.

“It will remove clutter and could increase computer speed,” George says.

6. Empty the trash and recycling bins on your desktop

Decluttering really is that simple – and it helps to free up storage space, too.

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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and women’s issues. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time. You can find her on Twitter at @laurenjanegeall.

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