You open a door in your house and you see a mess waiting for you, how do you feel about it?
Pressured to sort it asap?
Probably a mix of all of the above right? So why aren’t you clearing up your online world just as quickly? It looks just the same, if not worse and it’s weighing you down more than you realise which is why you need to declutter your online world…
Social media networks:
We spend hours on them every day and aside from telling you to come off the networks, which isn’t likely to happen, there isn’t much you can do to avoid them but there are ways you can help reduce the stress you feel when you use them:
Stop following people that annoy you.
The beauty of places like Twitter is that you don’t have to follow anyone you don’t want to so if you’re sick of hearing their political views or what they had for breakfast, unfollow them. Likewise, if a friends’ status updates always enrage you for one reason or another on Facebook, if you don’t feel you can unfriend them, unfollow them to hide their updates from your feed.
Have a cull.
Once a month or every couple of months, go through the people that you follow or you’re friends with and start asking yourself if you really want to be in a social relationship with that person. If you haven’t had a conversation or interaction for months, then ask why you still have person in your ‘social circle’; if they bring nothing to your table, consider getting rid of them. It may sound harsh and if you care more about quantity then quality, it won’t work but keep numbers small reduces your ‘commitment’ stress and most people won’t even notice.
Take some time out.
You don’t have to come off the social media networks but maybe you can try and turn off date roaming whilst you’re out and about for the afternoon so you don’t get notifications. Have a day or dinner with friends where you all keep your phones in your pockets or bags and enjoy each other’s company in person and not through each other’s status updates.
Answer messages quickly.
If someone sends you a message on Facebook, don’t ignore it and think you’ll ‘do it later’ because the chances are, by the time ‘later’ comes around, you’ll have more messages and status updates to like and comment on. Even if you don’t have real to write a proper reply, explain this to the other person! It takes the pressure of yourself by knowing you can write back when you have a spare 10 minutes later that day and your friend won’t feel ignored.
If you get a lot of emails each day or week, opening your inbox is often enough to send you into a panic before you’ve even seen how many ‘unread’ messages you have but there are ways to reduce the ‘inbox fear’…
Most email services these days have amazing tools to help you organise your messages so you should make the most of them. Some systems such as Gmail allow you to filter messages into different folders before you’ve even opened them so you know instantly how important something is and how quickly it needs your attention.
Even with (or without) filters, you still need to decide which emails need your attention ahead of others and that can often be a great source of stress. If you know the email requires a very simple reply; don’t put it off. Likewise, if your email contains some kind of deadline, make that a priority. The last thing you want to do is leave it until the last minute and not give a deserving reply.
Colour code and label
Prioritising takes time if you have many emails so if you have the ability, try and add labels or colours to your emails so that when you open your inbox you will know instantly which ones are more important. It may sound like too much effort but when you’re overwhelmed and see your inbox is full of green (non-important) emails as opposed to red (open me and respond at 2am!!!!), you’ll be grateful you took the time to set it up.
Keep your emails brief
Unless you’re writing to your friends and want to fill them in on your gossip, keep emails as concise as possible. Don’t waste time trying to make jokes if you’re responding to someone in business and try not to write 10 lines when you could have made your point in 4. It doesn’t sound like much but when you have lots of replies to make, it will quickly add up! As I said above, if something requires a small response, don’t delay it. Take one minute to write the answer, hit send and then file the email away. It may be small but it will feel a great relief.
Give yourself a deadline
Regardless of deadlines that you may have in the emails, give yourself a time limit on inbox dedication. Set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes and blast through as many as you can. If you’ve finished then great but if not, walk away and do something else then set another timer for later that day and go for a second round. Short bursts will seem less daunting.
Our online lives seem to be full of reading about things we don’t want or need to so it’s time to get strict with yourself if you want to relax a little more…
You know those newsletters that fall into your inbox full of discounts for clothes and goodies you don’t really want or need? Hit the ‘report spam’ button or, even better, unsubscribe. Sign up for a competition months ago and still getting contacted by the company? Spam it or lose it. If they’re tempting you with discounts etc, you’re likely to go their site and spend some time looking around when, without the prompt in your inbox, you probably never would have gone there in the first place!
Stop reading things that upset you
I’m a huge animal lover; I care more about them than humans to many degrees so whilst it’s important to know that animals are suffering around the world, I never read news articles about dolphin culling or dogs near death because I know that it’s going to bring me to tears. It’s not being ignorant; you can learn about the charities and situations through other avenues if you want to try and help.
Comments create some of the biggest stressors in our online world. We read news articles that we already know will infuriate many people and then wonder why we get so frustrated reading comments from people that are too ignorant for our own good; stop doing this to yourself! Read the article and walk away. It works the same on a social network; if you don’t like the status or tweet, digitally walk away. On Twitter you can block people if something has shown you they’re not the type of person you want in life and on Facebook there is now an ability to turn off notifications so when an all out war starts on someone’s status, you can walk away in ignorant bliss!
As I suggested with your email situation, set yourself a timer and stick to it. Why? Because one of the reasons our online world (and therefore our heads) are so full of rubbish is because we spend hours every day and week reading rubbish we don’t need to when we could be doing something productive or something that really makes us happy. So limit yourself. Read the news headlines or ‘high brow’ articles for 15 minutes (or 30 minutes; whatever you think your limit is) then walk away and do something real to bring you back to Earth. Go for a walk with your dog or have a real conversation in the office, even if it’s about something you read online.
It may sound like a long, complicated list but when you stop and think how much you do each of these every day, you’ll soon realise that these little tools will hopefully help you declutter your online world and therefore your mind a bit more each day!
What do you do to try and declutter your online world?
*Photo credit: jenniferbrouwerdesign