Just like the key to a clean house is making sure that all of your stuff has a proper place to go, the same is true for your digital life. Once you’ve trained yourself to put your various digital items in their respective places, keeping things organized becomes much easier.
I would argue that this is a core reason why people struggle with keeping a clean inbox; so much of what comes in there doesn’t have a proper place to live, so it just languishes. Or, people treat their inbox as a place for something else (often a to-do list), which leads to the same kind of problem.
I laid out all of my systems in my Digital Efficiency Framework post from last year, but here is a quick look at where all of my “proper places” are. No matter where something comes in (often through my inbox, but it could be a phone call, a Facebook message, or just an idea that popped into my head), they all can go into one of these:
- Events – They just go on your calendar. For me that’s Google Calendar
- Useful reference sites – I currently use Raindrop.io for my bookmarks, but there are a lot of great options.
- Things to read/watch – These are essentially bookmarks, but for things that you specifically want to go back and read soon. For me, I use Pocket to store and process those.
- Things to remember to do – This is just your task list, and it should be separate from your email. I use Roam Research for that, though there are other task-focused solutions like Todoist that can really help.
- Things to just remember – This is for things like quotes, stats, names, etc, that you want to remember. I store that kind of info in Roam Research, and then use Anki to help memorize the ones that really matter to me.
That covers most everything, but you’ll still be left with a bucket of “other” stuff to sort out. This might be a list of the books you want to read, or the paint color of your kitchen, or a code snippet to save for later, or anything else. These items need to go in some system that is easy to search through later and can help keep them organized. I use Roam Research for those as well, but tools like Notion or Evernote can do a great job too.
It can be some work to get things set up, but it’s beautiful once it’s up and running. If I see a great article I want to read, I can just throw it in Pocket and move on with my day. On a nice Saturday afternoon, I might open Pocket to see everything I’ve added recently and start going through it. Keeping those separate, and out of your brain in the meantime, is incredibly freeing and can work well.
What are your systems?
I’ll point you again to my longer (10 minute read) Digital Efficiency Framework post, and I’d love to hear what you do differently. Did I miss something in that list? Do you have a great tool that you use? Let me know!