I’ve already mentioned this a couple of times, but ever since I returned from Alt Summit, I’ve felt the need to get seriously organized, thanks to Erin‘s panel on organizing your online life (please ignore the fact that it took me two weeks to unpack my suitcase… we’re talking digital organization here, remember?). You know how you feel more productive when you have a clean desk? Well I think the same goes for internet clutter — when you’re surrounded by too much information, it’s harder to enjoy, find inspiration, and get things done. Here are a few things I’ve been doing lately to get/stay organized.
Clear it out and start fresh. The first thing I did when I got home from Alt (after taking a really long nap, of course) was to completely clear out my Google Reader — as in, unsubscribe all. I was at the point where if I left it alone for a few days, I would have 1,000+ unread posts, and I would frequently just mark all as read. Having so much clutter took all the fun out of blog reading! Now that my reader is more manageable, I haven’t had to mark as read lately, but I loved Erin’s tip regarding that — do it at the end of each week, because if you haven’t read it in a week, you probably aren’t going to.
Avoid repetition. I follow a lot of bloggers who are very active on Twitter, and I also subscribe to some newsletters, so having those blogs in my reader was just a repeat. So instead of just adding every blog I like to read back to my reader, I only added the ones that I want to sit down and enjoy at the end of the day, like I would a magazine. That doesn’t mean I don’t still read a lot of the others, I just follow the links when I catch them on Twitter instead, or check out the newsletters folder in my email at the end of the day.
Avoid hoarding. I also stopped subscribing to blogs I read for “someday” information (aka hoarding purposes), like food blogs — I don’t need to read new recipes every day, but I have them bookmarked to go through from time to time when I do need new recipes. On a related note, did you know that for blogs built on WordPress, there’s a feed for each category? I love the Design*Sponge Biz Ladies column, but their full feed is way too much in my feed reader — I’d rather look through their site instead when I have a moment, otherwise I’m just hoarding information I’ll probably never use. So I went to the Biz Ladies page, added /feed to the end, and used that as my subscription URL in my feed reader, so now I only receive updates to the Biz Ladies column.
Create an experience. I love Google Reader, but when I use it, blog reading tends to be more about getting through the list instead of enjoying what I’m reading. So lately I’ve been using Feedly and Flipboard on my iPad to read — it really is more like reading a magazine, and it gets me off my computer, where I’m already spending enough time as is!
Store information in WordPress. One of my favorite tips from Erin is to use post drafts to store information for your posts. You can use the WordPress Editorial Calendar plugin to create drafts directly from a calendar and move them around. It’s a small and easy thing to do, but it’s already made a huge difference in my workflow — when I’m ready to sit down and finish a post, a lot of the work is already done.
Save images with Evernote. This tip came from Erin of House of Earnest. She uses the Evernote web clipper to save photos she wants to use in posts, and it saves the URL with it. Then, you can right-click on the image and open directly in Photoshop when you’re ready to create a layout with it. I’ve had Evernote for a number of years and had accumulated quite a lot of junk, so I finally cleared it all out and now use it to store notes and photos for my blog, when the post is too far out to start a draft or I’m not really sure what I want to use the image for yet (secret boards on Pinterest are great for this as well — I just like that you can open Evernote images directly into Photoshop). Evernote is also really great for taking notes on the go — it’s what I used to take notes at Alt.
Don’t be afraid to unfollow. Up until a couple weeks ago, I hadn’t really been using Pinterest because my account was just too cluttered. I’ve been on it since the early days, and I used to follow anyone who followed me. Let’s be honest, Pinterest is not fun when your feed is taken over by someone you went to high school with who pins nothing but junk. This isn’t Facebook, and she probably won’t even notice when you unfollow her. I started by going through who I follow one by one, but now I just unfollow as soon as crap shows up in my feed — it’s less time-consuming, and after about a week, I noticed a major improvement in my feed.
Pocket or like first. I’m slowly going through each of my boards to delete out pins that are improperly sourced or don’t inspire me anymore, but in the meantime, I’ve been using Pocket to save sites I might want to pin from later and the Pinterest Like function for things I might want to repin, that way I’m not adding more pins to boards I’m still trying to clean up or repinning things that haven’t been properly sourced. The great thing about this is that it forces you to give things a second look before pinning, so I end up pinning even less. Since I’ll probably accumulate a number of things before I’m ready to pin them, I’ll be using Pingraphy to schedule them out so I’m not overloading feeds.
Properly source and credit. I’m not the first person to say it, nor will I be the last, but it’s important to make sure your pins lead to the original post (as in http://theurl.com/the-post-title, not http://theurl.com), otherwise, not only are you taking traffic away from the person who created it, the pin is useless — why would you want to pin a DIY that doesn’t lead to actual instructions? As I’ve been going through my old pins, I know which ones I actually do want to use in the future because I’m willing to take the time to track down the original information. Plus, I know I won’t pin as much in the future because I’m not going to search for the original source if it’s not worth keeping the information.
Yes, I realize I just wrote more than 1,000 words on organizing things that are supposed to be fun, but the truth is, it’s not fun when there’s too much information or you’re following people who aren’t inspiring you. Hopefully you’ve picked up a tip or two you can use in your own organization, and if you have any other helpful tips, do share!