the writer's arsenal: digital baggage

Writers today have a plethora of digital tools at their disposal to, ideally, make their lives easier when it comes to mapping out ideas, and writing anywhere, anytime. (That's right. Plethora. Thank you, online thesaurus, for example!) But this is one of those cases where too much can potentially be a bad thing, or at least, a complicated thing, involving too many software and service options.

I recently downloaded a master password keeping app (1Password if you're interested), deciding it was time to get the minefield that is my online identity organized. The very thought of all those accounts I have out there (plus the ones I've made and undoubtedly forgotten about) is overwhelming. Services, online shops, online banking, site logins--the list goes on. Thanks to the master app, I'm now starting to feel a bit more organized with all my accounts and passwords (which I beefed up in the process) in one place, but the exercise has also brought to my attention the vital importance of a little digital housekeeping from time to time.

It's time to leave some of that baggage behind...

If spring is the time to clean house, then I propose fall be the time to organize the scope of our digital lives. I firmly believe organization is the key to productivity so if you're having trouble in that area or even if you're just feeling bogged down by all the services you're signed up for, here are a few tips to get you moving in a better direction:

1. Are your apps holding you back? Mine were. And not just because I didn't have enough space to upgrade the software on my iPhone. I simply had too many apps kicking around that I downloaded to "check out", but the problem was, most of them had been downloaded for the same purpose--I wanted somewhere to write on the go. But after a while, I had so many of them that I couldn't remember which was which. I couldn't remember which ones I liked. I couldn't remember which ones I'd synced to the cloud or which ones were even capable of that. It was time for a major purge. After categorizing my various apps into folders, I started the process of opening each one to remind myself of how it worked and whether or not I liked using it. If anything about it didn't meet my needs, I ditched it. Even if there were aspects of it I did like, I don't have time for multiple apps that do the same thing. In the end, I isolated a trio of writing apps that each serve a distinct purpose, including one for writing on the go, and I trashed the rest, deleting related accounts as I went. I then did this with the rest of my apps, cleaning up anything I wasn't really using. I could already feel the digital burden on my shoulders getting lighter.

2. Next up was cloud storage services. Most of us don't only subscribe to one, even if we didn't make that decision consciously. But doesn't it feel a bit scattered to have your online storage be so, well, scattered? I found myself signed up for several of these online storage services (again to try them out in an effort to find the one I liked best, or sometimes because of a promotion offering extra GBs for free). It got to be a bit much. So I made a list of all the services I was signed up for and started to cull the list where I could (again, closing the accounts of anything I no longer planned to use). I still find myself with multiple accounts--Google Drive, iCloud, and a few others can be unavoidable--but the ones I've kept each serve a distinct purpose and now that I've got myself organized, I can start to use each one more effectively than ever (including the use of a highly secure service, Tresorit, to back up my most sensitive documents).

3. Email. Oh email. You started out so simple once upon a time. I had one email address to meet all my needs. But that has somehow spiralled out of control to the point where I have several. As with cloud storage, there is a certain amount of necessity to it, with different emails being used for different purposes, but still, there are extras that can go. Again, I made a list of all the email accounts I've accumulated over the years so that I can decide which ones to keep and which to shut down. Even if you find yourself keeping several, as I did, it's good to have them catalogued in some way, to have them on your radar, and again, to take the opportunity to strengthen any passwords that you created back before online security was the issue it is today.

4. Which brings me to my final (for now) note about digital baggage--if you're anything like me, you have more miscellaneous online accounts than you can account for (see what I did there?). It's not easy, but it's really important (and ultimately very rejuvenating) to make a list of all the online accounts you can think of, make sure that you close accounts you don't use anymore, and securely lock down anything you do (especially if it's linked to personal information or banking info). Trust me, the very act of having an inventory of all the accounts you own goes a long way toward feeling more organized and in control of your digital footprint.

Now that that's taken care of, I can focus on writing my next WIP, and because of the work I put into cataloging/culling things now, the exercise of tidying things up again next year should be a breeze :)

What do you do to keep your digital baggage from getting too heavy?