According to one study from Microsoft, US workers spend an average of 7 hours a day on their computers, while still another survey from Accountemps found that workers spend an average of 6 weeks a year looking for things.

While these two statistics may seem unrelated, think about this. One of the places we undoubtedly look for things is our computers. How much time did you spend this past week searching for a file you stashed somewhere on your laptop?

My recent experience hunting and pecking for a client contract on my computer led me to the conclusion that just as I give my closets a good cleaning from time to time, I was due for a computer decluttering. Here're the steps I followed to give my laptop a new lease on life.

Clean up your hard drive.

Since computer memory has increased exponentially over the years, storage is not in general a big issue; however, the bad habit of dumping info on our computers is. A few ways to keep your hard drive clear of the clutter include:

  • Delete any old working drafts of documents that have since been updated or are no longer useful.
  • Dump files that are so old, the information in them is outdated and never used.
  • Empty files that you created but never did anything with or that have no documents in them.
  • Eliminate files that have different names, but contain the same duplicate materials.
  • Delete all those hundreds (or thousands) of non-usable digital photos from your last trip.

Set up a logical filing system.

Try to mirror your paper filing system on your computer. The more your main folders resemble the names and categories you use to file paper, the easier it will be for you to both find and file various documents.

In addition create a 'working file' or 'pending' folder that lives on your desktop and can hold anything you are currently working on and need to access quickly and easily. While much of your computer may be used for the archiving of information, the 'working file' folder can hold the most relevant information and projects.

Finally, organize and update the bookmarks on your browser. Just as you may have random files floating around your hard drive, you more than likely have a ton of bookmarks that are not organized in any particular way.

Go under bookmarks and choose the organize feature. This will allow you to make folders with logical names that you can group and move your various bookmarks into.

Get control over your email.

For most of us our email inboxes have become the dumping ground for all our unhandled to-do's. To begin the process of email cleanup, start by going through your mailbox and deleting all old messages you no longer need. Then be sure to delete the messages in the trash file.

Because most people have enough room on their computer to keep old email, they often skip this step. However, it has been my experience that the more current and up to date your email, the less time spent searching for what you really need.

Next, establish an email filing system. One method is setting up your email folders the same way you classify your work. For example, if you generally reference your work by client, then set up folders by client name; if you generally reference by product, then set up by product name and so on...

Finally, don't fall into the trap of using 'ignore' as an option for dealing with the items on your computer. In the same way that a junk drawer, closet, or even room can become a loose end that drains your energy, random floating files, in an unorganized fashion, become the clutter that clogs up your computer.