Looking to minimise your online clutter and maximise productivity? Here are our tried and tested tips for a more zen-like digital life...
Do you feel it? The springtime urge to clean up, tidy your things, and live a more ordered life? You’re not alone. It’s why we’ve been looking into ways that you can get your digital life in line – whether you need to streamline your files, build a solid to-do list or finally get to the fabled ‘inbox zero’.
If that sounds appealing, we’ve got the knowhow. Here’s everything you need to get started with the new and improved (online) you…
Cloud storage and organisation
Let’s start with the obvious stuff. Your files deserve not only filing and sorting, but also to be safely backed up. Any of the cloud services listed above will help you do this: when installed on your computer, they act just like any other storage directory, letting you make a neat system of folders and sub-folders. And trust us: when it comes to organisation, the more sub-folders, the better! On your phone or tablet, the accompanying app for each service will let you search, access, download and add to your saved docs.
Lose or break your device? No worries – if everything’s backed up, it’ll all just re-downloaded the moment you install your cloud service of choice on your replacement machine.
As standard, you get 15GB for free with Google Drive, 2GB with Dropbox, 5GB with OneDrive, and 5GB with iCloud – though each one is upgradable for a small amount each month.
Our top tip for easier organisation? Because long lists can be hard to scan, why not name each folder in your drive with an emoji as a prefix? It makes finding the folder you want an absolute breeze.
Notes, lists and to-dos
Trust us, your work or school life will be a lot easier when all your notes leave the confines of scrappy notebooks and become fully organised, searchable documents. OneNote and Evernote are the clear champions here, offering a combination of utter simplicity with ‘deep as you like’ functionality.
Step one with either is to set up your notebooks – separate ones for work, school, home, finance, holidays, etc. Just remember to fill out each of your new notes in the right section and you’ll be amazed at how zen your online life will suddenly become.
Of course, having these organised, searchable notes is just the tip of the iceberg. Both apps also let you add voice notes, photos, checkboxes, videos, document scans, doodles and PDFs, and both sync your notes across multiple devices.
Used simply, these tools can be a great way to keep your digital thoughts in order. Used to their full extent, Evernote or OneNote could act as the central hub of a whole business, or be where you plan and write a barnstorming hit novel. It’s really up to you!
If your note-taking needs are simpler, Google Keep is a great option, and another that syncs notes across devices. It’s a more stripped back, no frills version of the apps listed above, but that means it’s easier at a glance to navigate your notes – especially as you can colour the ‘paper’ for each note differently – yellow notes for lists, blue notes for ideas, etc.
But don’t be fooled into thinking Keep is barren of features. It’ll still let you add checkboxes, audio, pictures and drawings. Oh, and because it’s Google, you can export notes to Google Docs to continue there. Want to see your notes on a computer? Head to keep.google.com – no install necessary.
Whilst you’re backing up your files, don’t forget your photos. Both Apple and Google offer bespoke solutions for this, each one getting cleverer all the time. Tell your chosen service to automatically back up every shot you take and you’ll not only be able to free up space in your gallery app, you’ll also be able to search for what’s in any given photo. Using magic.
Google Photos, which is available on both Android and iOS, has gotten even smarter recently, too. It now has some great sharing features, which let you share individual photos or albums with a loved one – it’ll even recognise the faces of the people in each pic, and suggest sharing with them automatically.
Receipts, bills, prescriptions, passport scans and other files… Are they all just stuffed in a drawer somewhere? Wouldn’t it be great if you could quickly pull up any of your ‘life admin’ docs in a snap? Well, if you take the time to scan them as they come in, you could!
They good news is you no longer need a hefty, dedicated scanner for this; your phone will do nicely. Both Office Lens by Microsoft (available on iOS and Android) and the latest version of Apple Notes can bring this functionality to your phone using your device’s camera. Just lay your document down flat and point your app of choice at it; it’ll detect the edges of the paper and give you a perfect, clean scan. Save each scan to a folder in a cloud or online notes tool, and there you go: your entire drawer’s worth of files, digitized and easily searchable.
Got boxes and boxes of old photos taking up space at home, but can’t bear to throw them out? Photoscan by Google is similar to the smartphone scanning apps above except – as the name suggests – it’s built specially for photos. That means it’s easy to scan your snaps and upload them to Google Photos, while a special algorithm detects and deletes smudges and glare.
There’s a reason why Google’s got an entry in every section of this list: the search giant is pretty keen on helping you get your digital life in order. The Inbox app’s whole aim is to get your Gmail inbox down to ‘zero’, by radically redesigning what an email app should look like. It’s all about simplicity, helping you pin the important stuff, archive the rubbish, and deftly sort everything from flight details to bills into folders in a seamless, near automatic way.
It’ll even surface things like flight details and ticket info at the top of the app – by itself – on the day you need them.
We’ve mentioned IFTTT (If This Then That) loads of times here on Vodafone Social, but each time in a different capacity – and that’s because it’s an endlessly useful digital Swiss Army Knife. With emails in mind, you can plug your inbox into a bottomless pile of tools that’ll send you emails automatically whenever specific events happen, like whenever a smart device in your home does something, or whenever you’re tagged in something on Facebook, for example.
But on the flipside, you can also use it to do things like get a text message when you receive an email from a specific person, or write yourself a formatted email as a shortcut to creating a calendar event. You could create an IFTTT recipe to automatically save starred emails to Evernote, or even save email attachments to Google Drive without lifting a finger. Dig in, and see what you can do!