Gone are the days (I hope) of a desk covered in files. If you’ve gone paperless, your desk is a thing to admire … and being a bit of a clean freak, having a clear desk helps me focus on the task of the moment. Mine holds my laptop, my diary … and a shell!
There are benefits to having the same approach to your cloud. A regular spring clean of all that resides on the other side of your keyboard will help you to:
- Find information quickly
- Share relevant information with the right people
- Avoid multiple versions of documents
- Create a resource library (Yes! Check this out!)
- Save money on apps or storage you don’t need
Time to pull on those yellow rubber gloves!
Here’s the process we follow periodically for our spring cleans
- Task 1: Spring clean your email
- Task 2: Spring clean your files
- Task 3: Spring clean your social media accounts (we’ll be covering these next few tasks in the coming weeks so be sure to check back!)
- Task 4: Spring clean your email marketing
- Task 5: Spring clean LastPass
- Task 6: Actually clean!
TASK 1: Spring Clean Your Email
If you’ve been putting this off because you think it’s going to be a monumental task, think again. Organising your emails doesn’t have to take all day. In fact, you can do it in just one hour if you set aside the time for it.
Minutes 1 to 10: clear out the junk
Set a timer for 10 minutes and sort your inbox by sender or subject. Then start mass deleting any emails you know you don’t need, like notifications from social media accounts, reminders for past events, confirmations for deliveries you’ve already received, newsletters you’ve already read (or will never read), and emails that are no longer relevant.
Minutes 10 to 30: create folders and labels
Now it’s time to organise the messages left that don’t need any action, but that you need or want to keep.
There are as many folder systems as there are email users, I have a folder (and subfolders!) for each client. Common folders include: Marketing, Accounts, Business Development, Projects, Team and so on. It’s super easy to add, rename and delete as you work out a system that works for you.
So you’re not caught up in the detail now, consider creating a “File Later” folder for anything that you’re at all unsure about, an “Unsubscribe” folder for anything you don’t want anymore, and a “Read Later” folder for those emails or newsletters you want to read … just not now! Tip: Those are great folders to sort through when you have five minutes between meetings.
If you want to get even more organised, create labels (called “categories” by Outlook) to add more info to your messages and increase search-ability so you can find them later. You can have multiple labels on one email or even multiple layers of labels. So, that email in your “Project” folder can have a main label of “Site Redesign” and sub-labels of “Content” and “Design.”
Minutes 30 to 50: use the 2 minute rule or make a to-do list for emails that need action
The emails you’re left with now should be the only ones that need action. If the action can be completed in less than two minutes, do it now. If you need more time to take care of the message, add it to your to-do list with a notification to remind you to actually do it. Then, archive the email to keep your inbox clear (you’ll still be able to search for it later).
If lists aren’t your thing, use Gmail’s new snooze feature (Outlook has a “follow up” feature) to have the email show up in your inbox when you’re ready to handle it.
Minutes 50 to 60: update your settings for easy maintenance
Congratulations, email spring clean accomplished!
Avoid having a repeat of your previous inbox overwhelm by setting up filters that’ll automatically sort your incoming messages so you don’t have to.
As new emails come in, set up filters in Gmail sending them automatically to relevant folders (Outlook uses “rules”). For example, newsletters you like to catch up on in-between meetings could be automatically sent to your “Read Later” folder.
You might also consider setting up an auto-reply for your Gmail or Outlook when you won’t be able to reply to emails as quickly as you usually would (like if you’re at a conference, working unusual hours, or on vacation).
A big time saver is consistently unsubscribing to emails you no longer want to receive. Unsubscribe as they arrive or set up a filter to send them to your “Unsubscribe” folder and get your virtual assistant to do this as part of her routine maintenance.
TASK 2: Spring Clean Your Files In the Cloud
Save everything in one system
Do you have random files saved in Dropbox, Evernote and Google Drive? Are you always opening one account and searching for something before you finally realise it’s in another?
With so many options available, it’s easy to do. To get organised, pick one system and stick to it. I’m not saying you need to move all your other files over right now, but set up the system now so as you do move them over it’s a relatively quick task.
Set up your folder structure
Like your emails, setting up a folder structure that works for your business takes all the pain out of keeping everything organised. We have a system very similar to our email folder structure. In Drive I have the following:
- Resource Library
- Your VA
Within those folders our subfolders are consistent. So when we onboard a new client we automatically set up:
- XYZ Company
- Client Information
- Shared with Client
- Monthly Reports
- Client SOPs
For our Resource Library the subfolders are:
Create a folder structure that makes sense for your business. If you already have one; look at which folders are unused, need renaming or subfolders added.
Move existing files into your new folder structure
Once you’ve done that, you (or your virtual assistant!) can then pull existing docs and folders into this structure. I suggest showing your docs as lists rather than grids, it’s much easier to organise a list.
TIP: sort your list by “last modified” date and to speed up this process, create folders for years. You can then bulk move relevant files into folders for 2019, 2018, 2017 and so on.
As you reorganise your system, you want to look out for:
- Duplicate versions of documents
- Documents are named clearly (and what you’d search for)
- Permissions are correct
- Delete documents you don’t need (declutter!)
- Relevant documents are branded correctly
Tasks 3 – 6 to follow!