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De-clutter your digital life

Author Douglas C Merrill on how to get organised in the age of internet.

tech reviews Updated: May 18, 2010 00:44 IST
Hindustan Times Douglas C Merrill on how to get organised in the age of internet

We’ve got multiple e-mail ids, social networks, blogs, e-calendars, phone contacts and online bills coming out of our ears and screen after screen after screen of computer stuff to back up, share and sync. “We’re drowning in information,” says Douglas C Merrill, former chief information officer for Google, a Ph.D in cognitive science and someone who helps people manage digital clutter.

Merrill, struggled with dyslexia as a kid, so de-cluttering — digital and otherwise — is a huge priority for him, so much that he has written a book on the subject with James Martin, Getting Organized in the Google Era. Merrill offers tips to declutter digital life.

Search, don’t file
Abandon the notion of “filing” and “folders” as a way to alleviate anxiety over a messy computer desktop, Merrill says. Folders, the paper and digital kind, must be maintained, and your brain must remember what you have put in them. “The problem is we never find the information we’ve stored, so we wind up with folders and folders we don’t know what to do with.

Search can set us free from the clutter of our imperfect minds by allowing us to get a little messy.” No time is lost on meticulously filing and hunting for folders when well-defined searches are used. Simple tools such as Google Desktop or Spotlight allow you to search with the same ease you enjoy for the Web. Quicksilver is popular with geeks.

Some paper is ok
You would think Mr Google would have no use for paper. Not true. “Paper’s great for certain things,” Merrill says. He plasters huge sheets on his walls when he’s brainstorming a big idea. They’re easy to move around as his thoughts firm up. “The idea of a paperless office has been bounced around for three decades. But paper is still very important,” he concludes with a smile.

9 ways to declutter
Ban cables and clutter from your desktop

Automate your folder and file organisation

Clean up your contacts

Compact and manage social network alerts

Clean up your hard drive

Free up space in Gmail

Pack a more efficient laptop

Use dropbox — for almost everything

Build yourself Gmail filters

First Published: May 17, 2010 16:34 IST