Doing a Periodic Purge

23 June, 2021

Whether we intend to or not, we accumulate things. Nowadays, a lot of our clutter is digital. Files, notes, images, videos, information of all kinds, and more.

Take Osidian, for example. It’s a very popular tool for capturing and organizing information of all kinds. I know more than a couple of folks who put everything into Obsidian. I’m sometimes shocked to see how much information, much of it irrelevant, that they collect.

In the end, this only adds to their digital and mental clutter. You can bet they’ll never take advantage of even 10% of that information.

While we sometimes (and sometimes more often) can’t avoid accumulating that clutter, we can do something about it. That something is what I call a periodic purge.

Doing the Purge

This is all about timing. Block out some time every six to eight weeks to do a purge. Some of them prefer to do it every three to six months.

Regardless of the time frame that you choose, take a close look at all the information that you’ve collected. Be harsh. Be brutal. Take as unbiased a look as you can at everything that you’ve accumulated.

Then, ask yourself if you’ve used or looked at that information in the last six to eight weeks (or three to six months). If so, keep those notes and files and ideas. If you haven’t used or looked at it, you’re probably not going to any time soon. Or ever, If that’s the case, get rid of that information. All of it.

Don’t hem. Don’t haw. Don’t hesitate and justify keeping that information by saying But I might need it someday. Don’t slip into the contingency mindset.

Let’s say you do need that information sometime down the road. Will you remember that it exists? Will it still be current to relevant? Or will newer information be available?

A Personal Example

Yes, I can be something of a packrat too! And sometimes, I let doing the purge slide.

About a year ago, I went through my digital files and found a bunch of notes and outlines for various articles and blog posts that I wanted to write. Before I stumbled across them, I hadn’t seen those files in over a year. To be honest, I forgot they existed. That shows you how important they were in the grander scheme of things …

I looked through the information and realized that even though some of the ideas were good, there was no way I’d have time to tackle them. And I doubted that I’d be able to do so in another six to 12 months. I sent all that information into the trash bin. I haven’t looked back since.

Final Thoughts

Doing a digital purge isn’t easy. But it does get easier the more frequently you do it. You’ll have less to worry about and more time and mental energy to focus on work, the information, and ideas that are worth tackling.

Without that additional baggage, you can focus on what you need to work on now and not something that you might tackle someday.

Scott Nesbitt