Cleaning your hard drive is about as much fun as it sounds, but what if you could make a real difference in as little as ten minutes?
We love productivity tips at MakeUseOf: apps for accomplishing more every day, productive habits to get into and even ways to use social networks to increase your productivity. It’s also important to try to figure out what’s hampering productivity in the first place.
Having a disorganized, chaotic hard drive can be one of the reasons. Spend ten minutes once or twice a day for the next week cleaning your hard drive, and your computer will be a much less stressful place.
1. Create a Filing System in Your Documents Folder
Your documents folder can quickly turn into a dumping ground for files, making it difficult to find things when you need them; and because your most important files are in this folder, disorganization can really add to your stress level. The fact that you often look first to your documents folder can exacerbate the problem.
To set yourself up for success, spend a couple minutes creating folders. As you can see above, when I cleaned up my hard drive, I made a bunch of folders that correspond to different areas of my life: academic, professional, athletic, and so on.
Once you’ve created a handful of folders, just start moving files! In ten minutes time you’ll have made a significant dent in the problem. As you go, you can create new folders to hold files that don’t fit into the ones you started with. It’s better to have a lot of folders than to have some of your folders stuffed full of documents that are only tangentially related.
If you have a really crazy documents folder, you can create a “To Be Filed” folder that you can drop things into for later filing when you get the time. Just make sure not to neglect it!
2. Empty Your Downloads Folder
This is another place where you’re likely to spend time looking for a single file, scrolling over and over through the same folder because you can’t remember what it’s called.
The downloads folder is best used as a temporary staging area; if, after a couple days, you decide you want to keep something, move it to another folder. If you haven’t even looked at a file that you downloaded, or you opened it once and got the information you need, delete it. In many cases, downloading it again will be faster anyway.
If you’re on a Mac, you can actually automatically clean up your downloads folder, so you might want to spend your time setting that up instead. If you have any similar plans in place for Windows, please share them in the comments at the end of this post.
3. Clean Up Your Desktop
Do you use your desktop like a downloads folder? Having a disorganized desktop on your computer can be a lot like having a messy desk in your office — it can waste time, stress you out, and doesn’t look very nice. The best thing to do here is to start totally fresh; get everything off of your desktop and where it belongs.
While many people won’t have trouble doing this in ten minutes, if your desktop is packed full of files, you might need a bit more time than that. Spend 10 minutes a few times a work just clearing out old and unwanted files and placing important ones where they belong.
If you’re on Windows, check out How to Clean Up Your Windows Desktop Once & For All for tips on making sure your Start menu and taskbar are doing as much work as possible to help you out. If you’re on a Mac, you can use a number of tools for maintaining a minimalistic desktop or a dedicated tool like SaneDesk.
No matter what you decide to do, get your desktop totally clear. It might seem like more effort than it’s worth, but it’s really nice to see a clean desktop when you boot up!
4. Get Rid of Duplicate Files
Having more than one copy of a file is a waste of space. And while having duplicate copies of a couple pictures or songs isn’t a big deal, if you have duplicates of hundreds of files, it can put a big dent in your valuable hard drive space.
We’ve profiled a number of great apps for finding duplicate files, and using these on a regular basis is a great way to keep your folders cleaner.
By running one of these apps on a folder or two each day, you’ll make great progress toward a cleaner more organised hard drive. You can point these tools at your entire drive if you like, but this will take a lot more than ten minutes. I recommend starting with your photos and music, and then go on to documents — these three folders are where you’ll find the most duplicates.
5. Store Files Within Apps
One of the things that made a huge difference when I was cleaning up my own hard drive was moving a number of things into Evernote. Now I keep my entire portfolio in there, which would have amounted to over 100 files. That’s 100 files that I kept out of my filing system! I keep a lot of PDFs in there, too — contracts, printouts, slides, and so on.
You can use online apps to do this, as well. If it weren’t for Pinterest, I would probably have a lot more downloaded image files that I wanted to keep around. Dropbox means I don’t have to manually duplicate a bunch of files across my different computers. You can even use Google+, Facebook, or a number of other tools to keep photos out of your pictures folder.
If you want to go a step further, you can create a drive partition to keep old files out of your way until you need them again.
Whatever you do, spend 10 minutes moving files into respective apps and then deleting them from your computer. You can move a lot of files in 10 minutes, and you might be surprised at how much space and clutter you can clear out in this amount of time!
Go Clean Your Hard Drive!
So there you have it: five things you can do in ten minutes or less that will help clean up your hard drive, declutter your desktop, and reduce the amount of disorganization in your life. Now get to it!
Do you have any favorite strategies for keeping a clean hard drive? Or are you fine with a huge mess of files all over the place? Share your thoughts below!
Image credits: Bo Gao via Flickr.
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