Do you procrastinate because of your cluttered workspace, or do you clutter you workspace because you need an excuse to procrastinate? That is my “Marie Kondo Chicken or The Egg” paradigm… And I’ll tell you why…
I didn’t clutter my space because I was a procrastinator. I used to procrastinate, because I cluttered. I used to leave stuff hanging around my physical space because I needed the excuse to be distracted by whatever was around me. I wasn’t happy with the clutter, but I was happy with the excuses it provided me. I needed an justification to delay taking action. Now if you take this concept from a physical space to the digital world, I have a nice story to tell you…
A couple of years ago I decided to get my digital life decluttered, and my effort was quite successful. Without thinking it twice, I eliminated all the free email accounts that I wasn’t using. Dedicated one email account for personal matters, one email account for professional matters, and one for shopping or opening new accounts…(that’s the one that gets all the marketing promotions I never read and delete in bulk).
Since I did this, I’m able to keep an Inbox more or less organized. Inside this Email accounts I have folders, lots of them, and they are labeled properly. If it is something that needs me to take action, I do it immediately. If it doesn’t require my immediate attention I use a little trick inside Gmail called “Boomerang”.
COME BACK WHEN I NEED YOU
Boomerang is a plugin application that helps you manage your Gmail. It integrates to the system and you don’t need to open a new program to operate it. With Boomerang, I’m able to send an email away, and tell the plugin to send it to my inbox when the time is right to take action. Let’s say that I get a bill that is due in two weeks, but payday is one week away. I could tell Boomerang to send me the same email on Thursday Night, to pay the bill as soon as I have funds in my account. Boomerang will disappear the email from my Inbox and send it back when the right time comes. That is of course if you don’t have everything in autopay to save you a headache, but a bill is just an example… I know you get the drift.
Boomerang is also a good plugin when you want to follow up important conversations. Imagine that you send a very important email to a recruiter because you are looking for a new job. You flag the email because you want to remind yourself to write again in a week if you haven’t heard from that person. Most likely, the feed of incoming emails will bury your flagged message to the bottom of your inbox. Or even worse, you start flagging so many messages that you become immune to the little flag. You see them, but there are so many that they don’t have a special meaning anymore. Boomerang can help you sending the message away from your inbox, and setting up to receive an email in a week (or the time you desire) to remind you to follow up with your recruiter. The keyword here is “sending the message away”, meaning that you won’t have clutter in your inbox.
Digital life declutter is a daunting task to tackle. I did it once, and I schedule some time once a year to take care of it. Email is difficult to organize, but you don’t have to start there. The important thing is to start somewhere. For example, start with the Desktop screen of your operating system, then go your digital folders. Use an external application like Prime from Amazon or Google Photos to organize an synchronize your pictures in the cloud and across devices. Passwords can also be a headache, I personally invest some money in an application called LastPass to store all my passwords, and important account information.
ARE THERE ANY BENEFITS?
My personal anecdote, is that once I had my digital life organized, I finally felt empowered to complete my first book. It was a personal project that I had been delaying year after year since I was 21 years old. Being digitally detoxed in my mid 30’s eliminated all the excuses and distractions I had. I stopped procrastinating and delivered for myself. Not for others… I did for me. And that made me happy.
Also last year when I did my yearly digital detox update, I found a folder called Education. It was a folder that I had where I collected all the information I needed to enroll in Grad School to continue my education. I selected the folder, and without looking into details, sent it straight to my recycle bin as I was saying that I need to stop finding excuses and apply to Grad School once and for all… A month later I was accepted at Florida International University’s Master of Science in Marketing program, and will be graduating this summer.
Your clutter is feeding the excuses you need to be an excellent procrastinator. What causes what? Doesn’t really matter. Just stop and take action.