It’s a new year — a time when we traditionally focus on health and wellness, tackling projects to clean, organize, and improve ourselves and our spaces.
These projects often revolve around our physical and physiological “homes,” but rarely extend to our virtual ones. That’s a shame. As a result of the pandemic, many of us are living online more than ever before.
Whether we know it or not, accumulating garbage in our online “homes” is harmful, both literally, (bogging down our devices’ processing power and eating up memory storage) and metaphorically, (causing us to feel overwhelmed, burnt-out, and frustrated.)
So, before starting a juice fast or cleaning a closet to kick-start the new year, consider if one of the following digital wellness projects might also be valuable.
1. Clean screens, inside and out
Just like you might start the new year by cleaning your physical desk, give some care and attention to your digital workspaces.
- Take a moment to physically deep clean the surfaces of your most well used digital devices, like the keyboard for your desktop computer (which may be dirtier than your toilet), your phone, or your monitor. (All of the above are a good practice any year, but especially during a pandemic.)
- If there are old files or unused apps sitting on your desktop or mobile home screen, take some time to delete or offload them.
- Critical information or documents are harder to find/address when they’re scattered across your devices or home screen(s). Make a folder called “important,” stick your docs inside and then start tackling one item in that folder every day or week.
- If you have a big goal in your life right now, make THAT image (or collage of images) your screensaver. Also put the folder with files for that project front and center on your home screen(s).
2. Streamline email inboxes
It’s OK if you can’t get your email in-box down to zero. There are other ways to refresh and recalibrate your email account(s) to improve your productivity and mental health.
- Start a new practice of taking five minutes every week to unsubscribe to any promotional emails that don’t provide value or bring you joy.
- If an email in your inbox is more than 5 years old, trust me…you’re not going to do anything with it. Mass select anything sent/received prior to 2016 — which is now 5 years ago — and delete it. (In gmail, type “before:2016/01/1” then click “select all” and then, “delete”).
- Do a search for any daily newsletters to which you subscribe, or everything in your promotions folder, select all files and mass delete. These emails are dead weight, often accumulating for years at a time, hogging storage space.
- Boundaries are good for business AND your mental health. If it’s feasible, consider setting aside time each week in 2021 to do deep work, during which you will not respond to emails, (even if it’s just for say, 30 minutes every Wednesday morning). Then, set up an auto response message for your email account(s) letting people know when you’ll be unavailable, why, and when you’ll be back “on duty.”
3. Refresh social media accounts
Take an objective look at your personal and professional social media accounts and ask yourself, “If I didn’t know me and read all these posts, what would I think about this person?” If your accounts are not currently reflecting the reality you’d like to present to the world, make some changes.
- If the account(s) are for your business, ask yourself if they’re effectively positioning you as an expert in your area of expertise. If not, adjust your content strategy in 2021.
- If the account(s) are for your personal life, skim through the last six months of posts and ask yourself what message they are sending. What is their predominant tone? What topics are you talking about? If both feel off or unbalanced, (and it bothers you) start changing how you engage.
- If there are people who regularly engage with your account(s) in an unhealthy or hostile manner, take the time to unfriend or unfollow them.
- Ask yourself if your headshot even looks like you anymore, or if you still like your cover image. If not, take a moment and change them.
4. Purge media libraries
The pictures and videos you shoot on the fly sometimes live on your phone, AND in your text history, AND in your Facebook account, AND on your desktop, AND in the cloud, etc. That’s a lot of storage space being eaten up simply to show your friends a funny sign you saw on a walk or footage of your kid singing a song.
- Look through your media libraries and determine if you are regularly storing multiple images or videos from a single event. If so, pick the file that best captures that moment, think about the best way/place to archive that file, and then delete the rest.
- Turn a critical eye to pictures or video in your libraries that were taken prior to 2016. If you’re holding onto these files “for the memories,” consider if they’re actually serving that purpose in their current form. If not, consider deleting them. Otherwise determine how to properly archive them so they’ll be accessible and provide value in the future. (For example, make a photo album of an event/trip/occasion on Shutterfly).
- Ask yourself if you actually remember all these moments you filmed or photographed. If not, consider if this exercise is offering you a gentle nudge to spend less time documenting moments and more time simply being in them.
5. Clear streaming queues
Streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hulu, are supposed to enhance your life and make it more enjoyable. If they aren’t, it may be time to make some changes in how you manage the content they provide.
- After you complete a TV series or watch a movie, make sure to take it off your watch list. (Don’t worry, the service’s algorithm will notify you if they add something like a reunion special down the road.) This practice will give you less options to weed through when you’re looking for something to watch.
- If there’s something on your list you haven’t watched in all of 2020, OR while you were quarantined during the pandemic, OR over your holiday break you’re probably not going to watch it. Free yourself of any imaginary sense of obligation and just take it off the list.
- Look at the your watch lists/queue. Do these choices align with your current interests, goals, mindset, or needs? If not, maybe it’s time to restructure your queue or even unsubscribe from one (or more) of your streaming services.
- Assess how much time you spend “hate watching” shows, watching stuff that’s just sorta OK, or watching seasons of shows simply because you feel obligated to complete the whole series. You only have one short, beautiful life to live. Make it a priority to fill it with good stuff that makes you happy.