Stop me if I’m wrong: there’s a lot of junk on your computer.
Hey, look at that. Nobody stopped me.
It’s awfully easy to accumulate so much stuff on your computer that you can’t find the useful stuff mixed in with all the cruft.
And oh, the cruft. It saps our time and sucks our souls. But a few well-chosen tools can make a big difference.
People with too much stuff on their computers.
Recommended tools that will help you organize the stuff, find what you need despite the stuff, and generally bring you a little closer to sanity.
A deep discount for nonprofits.
For the longest time I had the problem of Too Many Places. Some information would go into email or task lists, some in my browser’s bookmark bar, some in my paper meeting notes, and some in random Word documents.
Not to sound like a Microsoft ad, but OneNote has changed that. I’ve been using it for about five years now and the difference is dramatic. Many people also love Evernote, a free program with the same goal as OneNote. While I haven’t used Evernote much, it looks like a great product and I know people who swear by it.
Think of programs like OneNote and Evernote as electronic filing cabinets, but filing cabinets with unlimited capacity that you can search almost instantly. If you have a laptop, they go wherever you go.
At their simplest you can use one of these tools as a virtual shelf of notebooks with one page per meeting or topic. But if you want to break it down finer (and I do), a notebook can contain groups, which contain sections, which contain pages, which contain sub-pages.
Of course, I still have a filing cabinet, and I still use email, and I still have information in other computer files. But whenever possible I put things in OneNote for easy reference.
It’s worth the experiment. Give Evernote or OneNote a spin for a month and see if they help you to avoid clutter.
But third party tools like Google Desktop Search (free) and Copernic ($) can provide added power in searching for the needles in your haystack. Google Desktop Search, for example, will quickly search your entire computer for a word or phrase, not just in the titles or contents of documents but also in your email.
One warning: for any of these programs to search your computer quickly on demand, they need to periodically search and index your files in the background, and if your computer was already feeling sluggish it might feel even slower. If so, you can decide whether the benefit outweighs the penalty to your computer’s speed.
Some computer clutter lives in the real world. Ever want to print a couple of paragraphs from a web page but end up with four pages of links and banner ad clutter? You can print just the bits you want with Printliminator, Click2Zap, and PrintWhatYouLike.
Ok, this isn’t so much computer clutter as thought– and visual clutter, but it’s cleanup nonetheless.
I used to plan out projects, presentations, web pages, and articles by writing out an outline. It worked fine, but I’ve never really cared for outlines.
Then I found visual outlining, aka mind mapping. If you’re a visual thinker, and maybe even if you’re not, these tools provide a refreshing way to think about a big, structured topic. Rather than writing out a big, boring, top-to-bottom outline, you can create something that’s easier to take in at a glance.
Are there great clutter-cutting tools you’d like to recommend? If so let me know in the comments.