Today is Day 1 of our 5-Day Digital Organization Challenge. Thanks for joining us!
In this Challenge, we are going to be conquering those Time Squanders — the 5-10 minute annoyances that fly under the radar but eat up a surprising amount of time during the day. They have a real impact on our productivity, and we don’t even realize it! We wonder where our Time, Energy, and Attention (aka, the “TEA Framework”) have gone, and in many cases, a lot of it has gone to messing around trying to save and locate files, notes, and photos.
We’re going to be building you a digital organization system as we go through the Challenge, so by the end, you’ll have the tools to easily manage and more importantly find, and piece of information you need.
In some ways, digital organization is not too different from paper and physical organization:
- You have “stuff” coming in.
- You need to put it somewhere.
- If you don’t do that in an organized way, you’re going to have a problem eventually.
Think about when you have incoming physical items like paper: what happens when you don’t have a defined place for them to go when they come into your life?
That’s right, they end up piled and scattered all over the place. Sure, maybe occasionally you will do a purge or cleanup, but eventually, the same problem will come back.
The solution is to use a Dropzone: a defined place where you place incoming items until you are ready to deal with them.
With physical paper, the most common solution is a physical inbox, but the same concept applies to digital items: If you don’t have a defined Dropzone — a place to put them — when you receive those email attachments, download those bank statements, or take those meeting notes, they’ll be spread all over the place and will be very difficult to find when you need them.
Here’s why we love the electronic Dropzone:
- It is organized. You have a central place where you’ve saved things and a central location to go when organizing them.
- It is productive. When you are busy, you are much more likely to quickly save an item to your Dropzone vs. trying to figure out where it goes. We will have tips later in the Challenge to make this process easier, but still — imperfect action (saving an email attachment to your Dropzone) is better than no action (letting it sit in Outlook never to be found again).
- It allows for more automation. This is huge. The less naming and filing you need to do, the better and the more accurate things will be. By saving items to a particular location, you will have more opportunities to use automation tools to do the work for you.
Your Dropzone Is Not For Storage
The danger of a Dropzone is the same as a physical inbox: it can become a place where things accumulate.
There are two keys to avoiding this:
- Only save information here that you are later going to process and save. A Dropzone is not a working or temporary junk folder. Respect the Dropzone!
- Set up a regular schedule where you clear your Dropzone out. It can be once a day, a few times a week, weekly, or whatever makes sense to you and your volume of information. If you find yourself constantly skipping that “Dropzone cleanup,” that’s a sign that you aren’t scheduling it at the right time. It will take some experimentation and time to get it to stick, but it will be worth it!
You Will Probably Have More Than One Dropzone
… and that’s OK!
If you use numerous systems, as many of us do, you may have no choice but to deal with multiple Dropzones:
- A folder on your computer or mobile file system. Some people call it “Dropzone”, some people call it “Inbox” or “Action”. You can call it whatever you’d like. Ideally, this folder is synced via Dropbox, OneDrive, iCloud, or Google Drive so that you can save to it from all your devices. I call mine “!Inbox”, and it lives at the root of my Dropbox folder.
- A Dropzone in your note-taking app like Evernote, OneNote, Roam, or Notion.
- Your photo library.
- Possibly your email inbox, though ideally a system for that exists.
It’s OK if you need to have a Dropzone in each system. It just means that during your Dropzone cleanup, you take a look at multiple systems.
Now it is time for you to take action. Every day of this challenge, we’ll have homework for you. Remember — there’ll never be meaningful change in your life without action!
Put space on your calendar to take action on this exercise and the rest of the activities for the next five days. You want to make sure you have time set aside to do the exercises. We appreciate you reading, but reading blog posts won’t get you organized!
Here are your action items:
- Create a Dropzone folder on your computer for saved email attachments, downloaded documents, and other incoming files you want to save.
- Schedule your first “Dropzone cleanup” for 15-30 minutes later this week.
- Let us know in the comments where you’ve created your Dropzone, and when you’ve scheduled your first Dropzone cleanup.
Want some extra help? Register here for our FREE training on organizing your files, notes, and photos the right way. We’ll include strategies, tools, and extra examples. So make sure to register today.