Declutter the Digital Workspace by Sorting and Purging (Step 5 of 12)

I find that managing the digital workspace is one of the most difficult areas to manage. With the advancement of technology, data storage is getting larger and cheaper. This allows for accumulation of massive amounts of digital files that are unsorted. 

I did a quick google search and found that 1 Terabyte of storage can hold 86 Million pages of word documents or 17,000 hours of Audio (Approximately 2 Years). The scary part is that we can hold that much data within the palm of our hands. And unlike the physical workspace, that is limited by physical space, we are unable to easily see how cluttered or disorganized our digital workspace is on our laptops, desktops, phones, tablets, etc. 

Digital Hoarding!! (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Why is decluttering the Digital Workspace so important? The Digital Workspace is where most people are getting their daily work done. Just like having a cluttered Physical Workspace that impedes your productivity in the physical environment, a cluttered Digital Workspace will not allow you to be maximally productive in the digital environment.

Also similar to the physical workspace, the initial step to decluttering the digital workspace is by Sorting and Purging it. 

So, depending on the number of digital documents you have that are not organized, this step might take longer for some than others. If you are the rare person who does not deal with any digital workspace, then please skip this step. 

To keep things simple, I actually organize of the Digital Workspace pretty much the same as the physical workspace. 

Hopefully you have already completed Steps 1-4 and now have a great physical workspace that you can place your desktop or laptop on to perform this step with no physical distractions. 

What You Will Need:

Time needed: Approximately 1 full day (Possibly more depending on how much digital files you have)
Materials needed: Computer or Laptop. Also any hard drives or USB drives where you may have digital files stored.  

Overview of the steps to Declutter the Digital Workspace

  • Create 4 Digital Folders on your Desktop
    • Active Projects Folder
    • General Reference Folder
    • Pending Review Folder
    • Trash (can just use native computer trash folder)
  • Sort your Desktop
  • Sort all other files on your computer

Create 4 Digital Folders on your Desktop

Simply start by creating the following 4 folders on your desktop: Active Projects, General Reference, Pending Review, and Trash. As you sort through all of your digital files do not worry too much in this step about organizing them into folders (unless they clearly have a folder already). Just focus on putting all files on your desktop into one of these 4 folders. 

Here is a description of what each folder should contain:

Active Project Folder: all files that are pertinent to an ongoing active project you have in your life. 

General Reference Folder: any files that are important enough for you to store but will only need to reference infrequently. This can be items such as any completed projects, CV’s, vehicle information files, taxes, medical journal articles, etc. 

Pending Review Folder: This is similar to the top tray of your physical 2-tray system. Files that go here are things that needs to be sorted or that still have an action associated with them. 

Trash: All files that you do not need anymore should be deleted immediately after encountering them.  

Create 4 Folders!

Sort and Purge your desktop

Many people use their desktop as a digital storage space that never really gets dealt with. This is absolutely not the place to put unsorted files! Ideally, your digital desktop should be cleared daily of all documents, except for the Pending Review Folder (we will talk about this in Step 6).

Place all files from your desktop into one of the 4 folders (Active Projects, General Reference, Pending Review, or Trash). If you are unsure where something goes, just place it in the Pending Review folder and you can decide later. Remember you are not organizing things; you are just sorting into these 4 folders (we will organize in Step 6). 

Imagine a crisis or mass casualty scenario, where there is no time to treat each patient, they need to be quickly and immediately triaged. This is similar to the digital workspace. It is a crisis situation for many people and files need to be quickly triaged into the 4 folders before we start organizing (Step 6). 

Sorting and Purging all other files in your Digital Workspace

After you clear your desktop you will be ready to sort all of your digital files. Just go through each file on your computer and once again just place them into one of the 4 folders. Quickly decide where each one goes and then place it in the appropriate folder (remember to not worry about organizing them at this time). 

Sorting and Purging the “Downloads Folder”

I feel like the “Downloads Folder” is where files come to die. Or another way to think of it is a place for them to live forever. Depending on how you look at it.

Unfortunately, all operating systems default any downloads from your web browser and emails to go to the “Downloads Folder.” This is the worse place to have your files because rarely do people take the time to deal with them. Take time and clear out this folder and place any items in the 4 folders. 

After you have cleared the “Downloads Folder,” I would suggest that you make the default folder that all files get downloaded to in the future be your “Pending Review” Folder, where you will sort it out each day.

Permanently delete all files in the “Trash Folder”

After you are done organizing all of your files into one of the 4 Folders, go ahead and permanently delete all of the files in your Trash Folder!

In the next post we will go over exactly how to Organize all of your digital files from the Active Projects, General Reference, and Pending Review Folders!

I hope you enjoyed this post! Click here for an overview of all 12-steps to help you achieve a productive life.

Please sign up for our newsletter below if you would like to receive updates as each step comes out! Once again, I look forward to being part of your productive and stress-free life.

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[…] 5. Declutter the Digital Workspace by Sorting and Purging […]


[…] system within your three main folders of Active Projects, General Reference, and Pending Review (See Step 5 on how to declutter the digital workspace). Creating a simple yet comprehensive system and sticking with it will allow you to process any […]


[…] Stop being a digital hoarder and declutter your digital workspace today! Original detailed blog post located here: FULL BLOG POST ON DECLUTTERING DIGITAL WORKSPACE. […]

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