In this digital age, Americans spend a substantial amount of their time on a computer or smartphone. But for many consumers, checking email or logging onto a social network can be an unnecessarily complicated experience -- with unwanted solicitations flooding inboxes or notifications popping up incessantly.
Do you think your digital life has become messier and more cluttered than ever? A disorganized digital life can slow your productivity and potentially hurt your personal finances. It leaves you vulnerable to scams, puts your financial data at risk, and can potentially hurt your pocketbook.
Don’t be a digital disaster! Follow these tips to declutter and protect your digital life:
Have you ever opened the newsletter you receive every day from that financial services company? No? Then it’s time to unsubscribe. All email lists are required to have an unsubscribe option -- usually located at the very bottom of the email. Don’t overcrowd your inbox with email that you don’t read. That way important messages -- like a notification that your cable bill is due -- won’t get lost in a sea of unwanted email.
You might also consider signing up for a service like Swizzle or Unlistr. These services will help you unsubscribe from receiving unwanted emails. Also, check for tools in your email inbox that might help you organize and prioritize your email.
2. Backup your data
Do you have important financial data saved on your devices? All it takes is one digital disaster to lose all that important information. So backup the important data on your computers -- from your contacts to important files -- to an external hard drive or set up a secure cloud backup. And consider using an online service like Mint.com to manage your finances and to get a better understanding of what’s going on with your money.
3. Protect your smartphone
Just how much data is saved on your smartphone? It doesn’t matter if you’ve only got a list of contacts saved or if you’re more digitally connected and use your phone to access email and bank accounts -- you must protect the information saved on your smartphone. Set up a password on your phone so that it locks after a period of inactivity (and erases all data if the password is incorrectly guessed). Make sure you change your password from time to time, too. After you've done that, start the decluttering process by deleting things you don't need on your phone -- unused apps, pictures, music, etc.
To further protect your smartphone, download and use one of the apps that can remotely track your phone, lock or erase data. Some apps can even take pictures of your thief (note: also remember to update your apps)! If you’ve got important pictures or files saved on your phone, make sure to back them up. And consider insuring your device so that you’re not on the hook for a big bill if your phone gets lost or stolen.
4. Clean your computer
Just as you clean your bathroom or kitchen, you’ve got to clean your computer. That means getting rid of unnecessary files (or transferring them to your cloud), uninstalling unused programs, removing icons from your desktop, deleting or archiving photos/music/videos, and analyzing and clearing space from your hard drive. Cleaning your computer will not only help it run faster, but it will also help you be better organized digitally. Plus, you never know what you’ll find digging through your hard drive.
Along those same lines, clean your browser as well. Because seriously, you have that old blog bookmarked when it hasn’t been updated in a year? Purge. Clear out your cookies and browsing history, too. And delete old plug-ins you no longer use.
5. Review privacy settings for your social networks
Your social networks can reveal a lot of information about yourself -- your name, date of birth, location, work history, etc. In the wrong hands, that information can be used against you. If you’re someone who is relatively active on social networks, review your privacy settings to make sure that you aren’t sharing information about yourself to people you don’t intend to. Don’t make it easier for data hounds to find and use your information.
6. Clean up your contacts
Delete numbers you no longer need or use. Update information for your contacts so that you don’t have to go searching for your tax planner’s number every time tax season rolls around. And go through your social media accounts and unfriend or unfollow people who are no longer relevant to you. There’s a lot of digital noise on social media, so simplify and cut out the people/businesses/organizations that you don’t want to follow anymore. It will make signing onto Facebook or Twitter a much more enjoyable and manageable experience.
Guide: Everything You Need to Know About Safeguarding Your Identity