How Desktop Clutter Is Killing Your Productivity and How to Address it

I hate clutter. I hate it. I pride myself on being super organized and yet this morning as I switched on my laptop, I was struck by this monstrosity!

A cluttered computer desktop | Productivity | Organization | Mom Chakra

Now, to some of you, this may seem like a normal “working” desktop. I salute you! I don’t know how you find anything on this desktop without spending energy and time that could be put to better use. But you know why it bothered me? Here’s the thing: not one month ago, all I had on my desktop was the Post-it note and the three folders you see on the far right of the screen. I am obsessive about cleaning out my desktop because in the past I have spent a lot of time digging through tens of files and folders on my desktop. I don’t know why I let go in the last one month but this desktop gave me a huge jolt and I promised myself to restore sanity to my desktop.

Why Should You Address Desktop Clutter?

Think of your desktop as the entryway to your digital home. It’s the first space you will experience when you log on to your computer. How do you feel about a messy entryway in your home? I want you to feel the same way about your digital entryway. Besides, a clean desktop:

  • Allows more focus; less distraction: A no-brainer, really. The more clutter you have in your working area, in this case, your computer desktop wallpaper, the more distracted you will get. Clutter takes away your focus from the important things.
  • Saves time; increases productivity*: The more items you have on your desktop, the more difficult it will be to find a file. Conversely, if you keep your desktop organized and clutter-free, you will save time you would otherwise lose.

*Have you read my earlier posts on how to slay your To-Do list and be more productive when you work from home?

How to Reduce Desktop Clutter?

Desktop Clutter Pin MOM CHAKRA

So, then, assuming your desktop situation needs help, what should you do to salvage the situation? I have listed my step-by-step instructions to guide you through my recommended process.

1. Use a minimal and inspirational Desktop Wallpaper

Okay, first things first! An overcrowded backdrop adds to the distraction. So ensure your desktop wallpaper is minimal. Second, I recommend using a wallpaper that has more dark tones in it–dark because typically icon labels use a light font. Here’s an example: imagine you need to look for a particular PDF file on your desktop and you have more than three PDF files (often plenty more!). You will rely on the label to search for the correct file. But if you use a light colored wallpaper, chances are the icon labels will become difficult to read, consequently using up your precious time. So, go dark! Now, it’s up to you whether you want the wallpaper to be just a solid color or a photo. If you are going for a photo, make sure again it is minimal and you like looking at it for inspiration. It could be a photo of your current personal goal (mine is, running) or it could be a photo of a quote you live by…the choices are up to you.

2. Create a holding area

After your wallpaper is sorted, create a new folder on your desktop and name it Holding Folder…or whatever you want.

3. Move all items to the holding area

Next, select all items on your desktop (except the holding folder and Trash), and move all items from the desktop into the holding folder. You now have a clean slate to work with.

4. Create a folder structure

Don’t overthink this at this time. At a very high level, I recommend creating five base folders. Once you have these five base folders, you will create subfolders inside them depending on the type of content you have.

  • Multimedia: To store photos, audio, and video files. You will create subfolders, categorize each file into the
  • Applications and Programs: To store all available applications and programs on your computer.
  • Personal + Home: To store files related to your personal space (such as goal sheets, bank statements, eBooks, etc.), as well as files related to running the household (such as a meal planner, schedule sheets, recipes, contacts, etc.)
  • Work (if applicable): To store work files. Again, create subfolders that cater to your personal work requirements.
  • Downloads: The default location to store all your downloaded files. You will categorize these later according to their type into the other appropriate folder(s). Please remember the above structure is my recommendation. You don’t HAVE TO use it. Take what works and customize it according to your own requirements, or change it completely while taking in the gist.

5. Review

At this time, your desktop will have about six folders (1 holding area and 5 base folders). Now, open the holding folder and review each file…consider it a reconnaissance…get a sense of what you are dealing with.

6. Group and Organize

As you are going through each file, move it to a folder where it best belongs. For example, a music file belongs to the Multimedia folder; a recipe belongs to the Personal + Home folder, etc. Again, go as deep as you are comfortable with while creating the folder structure. Personally, I would recommend not going more than two levels down and here’s why–when you become obsessed with perfection, you spend more time thinking and creating folders than actually doing the job at hand, which is to remove the clutter.

7. Eliminate

For files that do not belong to any category or is of no use (such as a temporary working document you created last year; or your bank statement from five years ago)….DELETE. This step is only going to work out if you are honest with yourself. Don’t try to hold on to files that have served their purpose already and are no longer needed. LET THEM GO!

My friend, say hello to your clean desktop work area!

Uncluttered computer desktop | Productivity | Organization | Mom Chakra

Much better! I feel I can now breathe freely again.

How to Maintain a Clutter-free Desktop?

When it comes to desktop clutter, one-time cleanup is not going to cut it. You need to be consistent in your approach and come up with a regular maintenance plan. The secret to a clean home is regular housekeeping. So, here is what I suggest:

  • Eliminate the unnecessary files every night/week: Ideally at the end of each day, but definitely once every week, review the files on your desktop and move them to their rightful category folder.
  • Create backups on external hard disk and the cloud regularly: When you have worked on your computer for while, files start to slow down the computer. It’s frustrating to click a file and spend the next two minutes waiting for the file to open. Occasionally, your computer will also freeze up. But nothing tops the fact that even in today’s technology-driven world, computers crash! Where would that leave you? All your data erased at the blink of an eye? So, if you are not doing this already, please start creating backups on external hard disks and/or cloud services. Now, these disks and services are not exactly cheap. So, if you want a bang for your buck, ensure you are backing up only the files that are super important. Let that be your guideline for what stays and what should be trashed during the next cleanup process.
  • Create multiple desktops (optional): I am unsure about MacBooks, but Windows 10+ operating system allows the user to create multiple desktops–so, you could have one desktop only for your work-related tasks and files; another for your personal data. Consider leveraging this feature to not only have a clean desktop but also to segregate your major work areas.
  • Use the Start Menu (Windows users) and/or the Taskbar to access applications: Instead of keeping the application and program shortcuts on the desktop, move them to the Start Menu or pin them to the Taskbar at the bottom. You could also use the Search function to pull up the required applications and/or programs.

Desktop Clutter Pin MOM CHAKRA

How about you? What’s your desktop situation? Will you evaluate your desktop wallpaper situation? If it’s already under control–KUDOS! Share some your tips with others in the comment section.

TED Talks: Top 5 Inspirational Talks You Should Watch

Ok! Let’s begin with a confession. I am addicted to YouTube. I spend a couple of hours on YouTube every day, mostly watching auditions of singing or talent-based reality shows, or I watch mom bloggers (or vloggers, in YT slang). It’s my way of decompressing. Now, most days, I go through the videos guilt-free, but often I talk myself out of it. While YouTube indeed is a great source of entertainment, I find it lacking in content that is educational. Enter TED Talk.

Now, for those of you who have never seen a TED video, here’s the deal: TED is an annual conference where influencers from various fields share their experiences, learnings, and visions. Given the popularity of the original conference, nowadays, several local bodies and institutions are hosting their own scaled-down version. This helps open the doors to more influencers, achievers, and visionaries and makes the content more local. While I have never attended one of these conferences in person, I consume their content by the kilo!

So today, I wanted to share five TED Talks that I absolutely adore. The theme of these talks vary widely but the common thread is “inspirational” and “perspective-changing.” I hope you will enjoy these talks as much as I do.

Now listen, before I begin, let me warn you this is a long post. Not long because of the length of the post but because the five videos I am listing for you will take you approximately 1 hour to watch. I recommend you set aside some time. But worry not! Remember I mentioned Pocket in one of my earlier post on organization apps? You can save this post to Pocket and watch it later at a time and place of your choice. Alternatively, you can pin the images to your Pinterest boards and revisit whenever you want. Do give it a try!

Okay, let’s begin!

5 TED Talks Worth Their Weight in Gold

Disclaimer: All synopses are from the TED website.

TED Talk #1: Louie Schwartzberg

Nature | Beauty | Gratitude

Direct Link

Duration: 9:39 minutes

Synopsis

Nature’s beauty can be fleeting — but not through Louie Schwartzberg’s lens. His stunning time-lapse photography, accompanied by powerful words from Benedictine monk Brother David Steindl-Rast, serves as a meditation on being grateful for every day.

TED Talk #2: Isabel Allende

How To Live Passionately, No Matter Your Age

Direct Link

Duration: 8:16 minutes

Synopsis

Author Isabel Allende is 71. Yes, she has a few wrinkles—but she has incredible perspective too. In this candid talk, meant for viewers of all ages, she talks about her fears as she gets older and shares how she plans to keep on living passionately.

TED Talk #3: Elizabeth Gilbert

Success, Failure, and the Drive to Keep Creating

Direct Link

Duration: 7:14 minutes

Synopsis

Elizabeth Gilbert was once an “unpublished diner waitress,” devastated by rejection letters. And yet, in the wake of the success of ‘Eat, Pray, Love,’ she found herself identifying strongly with her former self. With beautiful insight, Gilbert reflects on why success can be as disorienting as failure and offers a simple — though hard — way to carry on, regardless of outcomes.

TED Talk #4: Nancy Etcoff

Happiness and Why We Want It

Direct Link

Duration: 14:14 minutes

Synopsis

Cognitive researcher Nancy Etcoff looks at happiness — the ways we try to achieve and increase it, the way it’s untethered to our real circumstances, and its surprising effect on our bodies.

TED Talk #5: Gary Greenberg

The Beautiful Nano Details of Our World

Direct Link

Duration: 11:58 minutes

Synopsis

When photographed under a 3D microscope, grains of sand appear like colorful pieces of candy and the stamens in a flower become like fantastical spires at an amusement park. Gary Greenberg reveals the thrilling details of the micro world.

Did you manage to get through the list?

No? Well, here’s what you can do!

Save the pin to your Pinterest board. 

So tell me, friends, do you watch TED Talks? What are some of your favorite Talks?

Feeling reflective? What better time than to be grateful for your life’s journey so far?

5 Things to be Grateful For Every Day + Free 31 Days Worth of Gratitude Prompts!

Earlier this week, I traveled with my son to visit some relatives in another city. It was a tough trip for me because, throughout the four-hour-long journey (one way), my almost-four-year-old son was fidgety and wanted attention (my husband couldn’t join us due to work deadlines). Now, if you are a parent or a caregiver, I am sure you understand how exhausting it is to entertain a child for four hours continuously while on the road and then again for two days+nights and another four-hour journey back home. I was ready to pull my hair out several times during this trip. But in the end, the only thing that stopped me in my tracks was reminding myself about the purpose of our visit. You see, I am at an age where most of my elderly relatives are at a really advanced age and are experiencing failing health. Some of them had not even met my son because my husband and I were too busy with work to make time and meet them (Awful, I know!). So, this year, we decided that one of us is going to take a step back from our crazy work schedules and focus on other important things, like relationships. And so, this trip was undertaken especially to ensure that my son gets to meet his extended family he has never met. While the trip in itself tested every ounce of my patience, I am grateful I had the opportunity to make it happen anyhow. Gratitude makes it all worth it.

Upon returning, I got thinking about the concept of practicing the attitude of gratitude. One of the secrets to finding peace and happiness in our lives is to be grateful. It’s a scientifically-proven fact that gratitude increases not only your emotional health but also your physical health. After all, thoughts that do not revolve around gratitude veer towards negativity and consumes you. That can never be good, can it now?

So, in today’s post, I want to share things I am grateful for every day. But I want to spread the word to everyone I come in contact with. So, if you stay till the end, there is a bonus download for you 🙂 Let’s begin!

5 Things I am Grateful For Every Day

5_Things_To_Be_Grateful_For_Every_Day_Gratitude_Pinterest_Mom_Chakra

Family and Friends

Where would I be without my family and friends? And I put family and friends in the same category because my true friends are nothing but the family I chose for myself. These are the people I love the most; people who hold me up when I am down and out; people who hold me down when I let success go to my head. These are the people who taught me what it is to love without asking for anything in return except love and respect. These are the people who taught me values that make me a good person. These are the people who taught me life skills so I could help not only myself in difficult situations but also help others who are facing a similar situation. These are people I turn to when I need advice. These are people who will be with me until the end.

Shelter

A roof over our heads is the safest place on earth for me. I am thankful that we have been able to own a house at our young age with all debt paid off. It’s truly a blessing. As our son grows, we may or may not upgrade to a better and bigger house in the future, but at this moment our house shelters us not only from the harsh tropical environment but also provides us peace when the public cacophony rises outside. This is where we retire to at the end of each day to either celebrate our achievements or to lick our wounds…or, let’s face the truth, to vegetate on the sofa every often. It’s where we prepare food to nourish our bodies; it’s where we spend quality time with each other; it’s where we have meaningful conversations and pass on our values to our son. It’s where we entertain our loved ones; it’s where we discuss our dreams for the future; it’s where we reminisce about the past. It’s the place we call HOME.

Food and Water

It’s an uncontested fact of life that food and water* come only next to clean air when it comes to the basic sustenance of human beings. I am grateful that we can put food on the table every day. It breaks my heart to see homeless people (especially children) go without food so often. When I can, I try to carry some food and water in the car to give away if I come across a homeless person. It is my hope that every country in the world will find a way to provide food, water, and shelter to every family on our planet. If you are in a position of God’s grace, please do not hold back from helping the less fortunate. Pay it forward as often as you can.

* Have you read my earlier post on the benefits of drinking water and 5 tips to stay hydrated? If not, do give it a read 🙂

Education

When I say I am grateful for my education, I don’t just mean the education I received in school. Obviously, without that foundation, I would not be able to make decisions and think rationally about anything at all. School education has given me the ability make choices that were not swayed by the heart; it has allowed my family to earn a decent paycheck and provide for others. However, the education that I gain by meeting other people, or when I am exposed to new life situations is priceless. It’s a blessing to be in a position of enriching my life every single day. But more than all of that, my biggest blessing is being able to apply my education to help my child (and sometimes, friends and family) resolve problems and become a better person.

Work

If it weren’t for the formal and informal education we were exposed to, my husband and I couldn’t have afforded to own a house and put food on the table. It’s because of our education that we landed jobs that help us keep up with the ways of the world. It has allowed us to put our child in one of the best private schools in our neighborhood. It’s allowing us to look after our aging parents at home. At another level, our jobs have also allowed us to learn important life skills–well, important in today’s world, at least–such as networking, teamwork, analysis, problem-solving, creativity, etc. And of course, our jobs have allowed us to be friends with some wonderful human beings. I know there are many people who believe colleagues should not be brought into their personal lives…but my husband and I are not from that school of thought. Most of our closest friends today are people who are/were our colleagues.


So, those are the five things I am grateful for every day. But that isn’t all. There are hundreds of more things that I am grateful for. I try to find something new to be grateful for every week, if not every day. It forces me to look for the positives and let go of the cynicism and negativity that often comes with age. But unless I force myself to weed out the negatives, the positives will not find any room to grow in my life. Practicing gratitude is a habit that needs to be developed and nurtured.

Scroll all the way down for a FREE download!

But before that, if you found this post helpful, please consider sharing this post with your friends and family. It could be your good deed of the day 🙂

One way of sharing share can be pinning the following image to your Pinterest account.

Gratitude_Every_Day_Pinterest_Mom_Chakra

My friend, what are you grateful for? Do you find a reason every day to be happy about? Do you express your gratitude? If you do, congratulations! You are in a forever-self-healing mode. Spread the word. But, if you don’t, I would like to help.

It’s bonus time!

I have put together 31 gratitude prompts to last you an entire month. 31_Gratitude_Prompts_Mom_Chakra

Trust me, once you are in the habit of being grateful, you will find newer things to be grateful for every day. You will no longer need a prompt sheet to recognize and express your gratitude. I urge you to take the first step and see the immense positive aura that will surround you. Go ahead, give this a try!

5 Free Productivity Apps to Organize Your Life

Ah! Productivity and Technology–two of my favorite areas of interest—and, when these two come together, I can spend hours absorbing information related to them and then several more hours telling others about these. You can tell I am passionate about these two subjects!

The other day I was visiting a friend and we got talking about paper vs. digital planning. We agreed both of us love paper planners over digital planners—I like to write things down; typing does not hold the same motivation. Then, our harmless conversation things started to move into the “tech-bashing” zone, and it got me riled up. Look, there is no denying the analog world will always be more charming than the digital world, which is evolving every day. But, we also cannot deny the ease of the digital world. Worse still, I believe we cannot give up on the digital options without even giving them a fair trial.

So, in this post, I will share some of my favorite apps that help me stay productive and organized. These apps, in conjunction with my other tips on productivity, is sure to give you a head start.

So are you ready? Here we go…

5 Free Productivity Apps For Moms

Explore 5 free productivity apps to stay productive and be organized every day.

Please note this post is neither sponsored nor do I have any affiliate links added. I am simply sharing how I stay productive with the help of certain apps. These are what I use and recommend. However, what works for me may not work for you. So, I want you to understand the use of each of these apps and then choose to either give these a try or to find similar apps that serve the same purpose but are more suited to your preferences and/or style.

1. Google Calendar

Productivity Apps for Moms: Top 5 (Free) | http://wp.me/p8zbJC-at

Who hasn’t heard of Google Calendar? It’s the king of productivity, in my opinion. You can carry your life in this one little app. I was introduced to GCal while I was still working full-time. The organization I was working for was brave enough to switch from the industry standard Microsoft Outlook to Gmail for Business. Now, Gmail does not come with an inbuilt calendar like Outlook, so naturally, we switched to GCal as well. Though we were all reluctant when we made the switch, GCal has now become an integral part of my planning and scheduling process. In addition to my work meetings, I schedule all my travel dates, social events, birthday/anniversary reminders, my son’s school events and even my blog post schedules on Google Calendar. Events are easy to create and modify on GCal. Any spillovers or postponed events can be easily moved to another date by simple drag and drop action. For events that require travel, you can even integrate estimated travel time and the destination address on Google Maps (another favorite app of mine, but not really a productivity app except that it may help you plan for your travel time and destination).

2. Google Drive

Productivity Apps for Moms: Top 5 (Free) | http://wp.me/p8zbJC-at

I’ll be honest. I started using Google Drive very recently on a serious basis. Before this, my only experience with GDrive was to access shared documents for my job. But once you start using it, you know it’s a great tool to stay organized, thus helping your productivity. It helps that you can mirror the Microsoft Office suite on Google Drive—you have the option to create documents (MS Word), spreadsheets (MS Excel) and even presentations (MS PowerPoint). But what sets Google Drive apart is the ability to not only share documents online but also allowing live editing. For example, if I write a blog post on Google Docs sitting at home, I can share it with my husband who is on the train back home from work. He can access it on the go and review it on the go. You will say you can do that by emailing your native MS Word document and the recipient can review it on the go. But I bet you cannot view the review happening in real time. Told ya =) It has saved me so much time to be on a live document review with my clients. Both of us access the document and run through it together. Changes are suggested and implemented then and there while some major changes can be noted for future implementation. Similarly, you can create and share project plans, schedules, presentations etc. I even track my home projects, budget, utility services on Google Drive.

3. Pocket

Productivity Apps for Moms: Top 5 (Free) | http://wp.me/p8zbJC-at

I have been a long-time user of Pocket and it is one of my favorite apps…ever. As a busy mom (and even before), I will often come across articles that are interesting but I have no time to read then and there. What’s the next best option? Bookmark it! Pocket does that for you and much more. You see, your bookmarked article will be added to your Pocket queue (on the web or on your phone depending on how you have it installed). The article will, thus, be available to you whenever you have the time….even if you do not have a data connection. What’s more…it gives you the option to select your “view” – whether you want to read the article in a mobile-optimized format, or you want to read it in its original web format. But can I tell my favorite feature of this awesome app? It’s the editorial team-curated list of articles that have been doing well around the world. On your own, you may not have known about these articles but Pocket makes sure you never miss out. Instead of spending your precious free time on mindless YouTube cat videos, why not use Pocket to access and read some brain-stimulating information.

Like this post? Then, you will love this free resource that will change the way you plan your day.

4. Evernote

Productivity Apps for Moms: Top 5 (Free) | http://wp.me/p8zbJC-at

I am a big consumer of information. I am also a compulsive planner. Evernote helps me do both on one platform. In a way, I started using Evernote to save articles for future consumption…until I discovered Pocket. So, while I still save articles to read later, I use Evernote more as a brain dumping platform, mostly geared towards this blog’s content, but also certain social events. For example, I planned a Christmas party To-Do list on Evernote last year. Additionally, I also use it as my shopping list because I do not want to carry a notebook that adds weight to my handbag. The To-Do list can be created as a checklist and you can check off items you have already bought or done, as the case may be. Isn’t that great? Another great feature of Evernote is the Notebook and Notes distinction. You see, you can have individual notes about whatever stuff you want to list, but you can also have a broad-level notebook (think of it as a category) under which you can organize your individual notes that fit the category. For example, I have a notebook named after my son. In that notebook, I have individual notes on planning his birthday party and the Christmas party I mentioned before. The options are endless. It’s up to you how you want to organize your Evernote.

Remember: being organized is the first step to being productive.

5. Scanner Pro

Productivity Apps for Moms: Top 5 (Free) | http://wp.me/p8zbJC-at

This is a mobile-only app but it is a lifesaver! So many time. I don’t know about your country, but here in India, one needs to produce their photo identification very often. I have been stuck in situations when I didn’t know I needed to submit copies of a certain official document and did not have it on me when needed. Scanning apps, like Scanner Pro, came right to my rescue. You simply need to take a photo of the required document and the app saves it as a scanned copy and allows you to email the “scanned document” to the concerned party. It also comes in handy when you have to fill a physical form. Fill it, scan it, email it. Done, done, and done.

And here’s a Bonus App

LastPass

Productivity Apps for Moms: Top 5 (Free) | http://wp.me/p8zbJC-at

How many websites do you visit in a week? 5, 10, 15…? More? Now tell me this: how often do you read and hear about the news of some website database being hacked and data of thousands and millions of people stolen? At least once a month? It’s a scary time to live in. But it is also a time where most of our life is managed online. Most of us now bank online, make reservations online, and share much of our personal data with a third party. Agree? Now, unless you have a brain that can store 50 passwords (some of which need to be updated at regular intervals), you should definitely give LastPass a try. LastPass is a tool that helps manage your passwords for hundreds of websites. If you do not pride yourself in coming up with strong passwords, LastPass can even generate one for you. So, you don’t want to spend time scavenging for your passwords. Over time, you would have saved a significant amount of time and energy. Whether you choose to give LastPass a try or not, I want you to remember these two points:

  • Do NOT write down or type out your passwords anywhere—online or offline. It is just not worth it!
  • Do NOT use the same password for all your website logins. It’s a hassle but it’s important.

Before I sign off, I want to ask you—my dear readers—a few questions: have you used any of these apps before? How is/was the experience? If you haven’t used any or all of these apps before, would you like me to do separate in-depth posts on each them, and share their features and functionality and most importantly how I use these tools personally? Leave a comment with your feedback.

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Explore 5 free productivity apps to stay productive and be organized every day.