Digital cleansing and making space for creativity

Lately I’ve had a burning desire to reduce everything down to its simplest form so I have space to make and create, but things have been getting in my way.

For a while now it’s felt as though my digital spaces are filled up and overflowing. All across tools like Evernote and Google Docs I have lists of project ideas, movies to watch, thoughts to expand, and so much more.

If you’re like me, things are everywhere.

While I’m always trying to get a hold on my digital life, I never truly feel in control.

I’ve got backlogs of ideas, thoughts, writings, projects, lists, and all sorts of information I’ve been saving over the years.

It’s so easy to create a new document, put it somewhere, and forget about it that somehow — despite my rather obsessive organizational skills and minimalist desires — I still feel as though my digital effects are out of order, out of date, and out of control.

As such, I’ve decided to clean up my digital cobwebs as best I can in preparation for 2019. Inspired by my friend Sam, I’m going to tidy up and start fresh.

My goal is to complete whatever I can before 12/31/18, archive anything I want to hold on to long-term, and delete all the rest — for good.

Here’s what I want to get out of this exercise:

  • Give myself a fresh start
  • Not feel the weight and burden of all the ideas, writings, and projects I thought of but never took action on
  • Make space for new and better ideas to come along
  • Give myself that sense of control that I (and we as humans) are always craving
  • Get rid of all the digital debt I’ve accumulated over the years while freeing myself to become the next version of me, without holding to the past
If this speaks to you, you may want to take on a similar “digital cleansing,” so I thought I’d share a bit of my planned process. I hope you find something useful!

The main apps I use are:

  • Bear — my whiteboard and thinking canvas. I use it for initial idea capture as well as part of my personal productivity system
  • Things — my task and project management app which helps me capture and process every thought I have about something I should do. Then, I sort.
  • Ulysses — what I used as a typewriter, if you will. It’s my writing tool of choice for expanding on ideas, organizing essays and thoughts, and moving things through the production process.
  • Evernote — my digital filing cabinet for storing things that are more long-term and less “in the moment important” like recipes, conversation notes, webpages I like, things to buy, and stuff like that.
  • Pocket — an awesome piece of software that has become the bane of my existence. It allows you to save any website, video, article, blog, whatever, and then have a library of “content” you can work through at anytime. In reality, it’s a graveyard because way more goes in than actually gets read. Cannot wait to nuke this one!
  • Apple Reminders — a really good way to set recurring reminders or things that come to mind that need quick action, but at a later time. “Remind me to do laundry when I get home” or “Remind me to schedule my doctor in the morning.”
While that sums up what my main “productivity stack” looks like, what I’ve come to be burdened by is that every one of those apps has some kind of backlog. Literally every one has dozens (hundreds?) of unwritten ideas, unfinished projects, overwhelming lists, writings I’ve started but not continued, and tasks that just are not priority. Yet there they are, taking up space, both mentally and digitally. I think about them regularly, actually, because I see them all the time whenever I open those apps. They take up mental capacity and bandwidth, and while that seems like a thing not worthy of attention, it actually ends up taking quite a bit of energy over time because they need to be waded through and moved around, and honestly, they just feel like baggage. Throughout the year I’ll regularly spend time organizing, tagging, archiving, deleting, and moving around items as I see fit, but still, halfway through December 2018 and the backlogs are real. So what am I going to do about it? I’m going to nuke everything! BAM! Gone. Wiped clean. Fresh slate. New beginnings. Ok ok ok… well… I’m cheating a little bit. I’m actually going through and picking out some things I just cannot let go of, throwing their links into one archive document, then archiving them and deleting everything else. They’ll be out of sight and out of mind, yet still accessible through a “table of contents” of sorts for that time when I want to revisit where my mind was X months/years ago. Buh bye baggage! Buh bye cobwebs! Buh bye ideas from 4 years ago that never had the chance to grow up! At first I was apprehensive and finding it hard to do this, so I asked Sam how he justifies deleting everything to himself. He said simply, “The truly great will come back. The extra space will allow for even better to show up.” Couldn’t have said it better myself, and that’s why I’m wiping the slate clean. Perhaps you may benefit from your own style of cleansing, so you too can make space for the unknown future.