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.

Productivity for Moms: Top 5 (Free) Apps to Help You Stay Organized

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…

Top 5 Free Productivity Apps For Every Mom

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

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.

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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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