Date posted: 01/02/2024 5 min read

Reclaim your digital space

Heather Smith FCA shares her tips for a tech spring-clean.

Quick take

  • A digital spring-clean can enhance your hardware performance.
  • Many people need better organised file management on their PC and smartphone.
  • You’ll also benefit if you have a cost-effective software subscription management strategy.

As I write this, under my desk, my feet are in AI-powered foot massager heaven. Someone on #TaxTwitter said this would improve my performance and I’m always keen to experiment with productivity hacks. The machine analyses pressure points and adapts to my foot’s shape and tension areas. It offers a seriously deep kneading, targeting pressure points, releasing endorphins, reducing stress and alleviating tension – and it even warms up.

To optimise the performance of my hardware, I plan to do a spring-clean of my apps, software, files and storage areas. While I have some good habits in place, I need to review where the hairballs are and determine if there are workflows or tools that can assist in a deep clean, or if I need to roll up my sleeves and get dirty, plucking them out one by one.

Taming the folders on my PC

Within the settings area of my PC is the ‘storage’ dashboard, which lists what’s using the storage and also assists in freeing up space. I’ve configured the ‘storage sense’ feature to automatically review files monthly, clean-up space and delete unused temporary files. I click through on the other areas and assess if I recognise files that are not needed any longer and offload them.

On my PC, I use an app called Everything by, which indexes all my computer files. I can then use powerful advanced search filters to find anything on my computer. I understand Mac users have a similar inbuilt search engine called Spotlight. An alternative is Raycast, which is search-on-steroids for Mac users.

It’s fast and easy to find files, as long as you remember to give them a sensible name.

Any downloaded file goes to the same folder, and from there, I rename it if necessary, so I can quickly identify it. I move files I’m working on to my desktop and others to relevant business subfolders. To ensure easy navigation, I have clearly labelled folders and subfolders and I create new folders as necessary. I use Google Drive for online storage and utilise the ‘label’ function to categorise important files.

I’m good at regularly cleaning off the files from my desktop. However, I’m guilty of having a hairball mess in my downloads folder, and I need to spend some time cleaning it up and adopt the habit of clearing the download file area periodically. I plan to use a utility tool called CCleaner to assist me. It helps surface unnecessary files such as duplicates, temporary or junk files, which will help me declutter my files. My goal is an empty downloads folder.

Managing mobile phone clutter

While flying to Las Vegas for a conference, I used that forced focus time in my plane seat to review what’s stored on my Google Pixel 4XL. Under Settings > Storage, there’s an overview of how my phone’s storage is used across apps, images, videos and so on. It has 118GB of storage, with 112GB in use, so I’m in the danger zone!

When deleting unwanted files, I always start with the low-hanging fruit, the ‘bin’. The files there auto-delete after 28 days, but I speed up the process by clicking the ‘delete’ button to permanently delete 39 files. The phone then starts surfacing suggestions about what I should delete: blurry photos, old screenshots, unused apps, large files and downloaded files.

Deleting unused apps is a quandary because I always seem to need them when I don’t have easy access to fast and free data. Reviewing the large files surfaced a treasure trove of videos I’ve not shared on social media, yet!

I went back and clicked on the individual storage areas and deleted unnecessary files. I was surprised to find over 1000 images in an Instagram folder! I explored further and realised photos shared via other apps, such as Messenger and WhatsApp, were not automatically uploaded to Google Photos, and thus, there was the potential to lose precious memories. I clicked on the ‘library’ area of Google Photos and under the section ‘photos on device’, I set up automatic backup. I then realised I could delete backed-up photos automatically. I tapped on the ‘files by Google App’, selected Menus>Settings>Smart Storage, and clicked OK to activate the removal of photos that had been on the device for more than 60 days. This activity freed up 48GB on the phone, and along with the streamlined backup workflows I’m extending the replacement life of the hardware.

Streamlining subscriptions and eliminating duplicates

I’ll always pay for something that saves me time, but I’m constantly spring-cleaning my subscriptions. Once I’ve used a solution for a while, I’ll assess the cost versus the time it’s saving me. I prefer to make this decision after I’ve become familiar with the solution, because it can take time to determine. Some people baulk at the cost of XBert, but once its workflow capabilities are understood, along with the AI-infused data quality audits, users rave about it.

There are a few ways to spring-clean software subscriptions:

  • I jot down an outline of my current app stack, drop it in an accounting or business community, and ask for feedback. People are fascinated by the tech other people are using and will quickly point out cheaper options, improved solutions or functionality overlap.
  • I use the subscription dashboard within the spend management solution Weel to identify duplicate subscriptions or irregular charges. Each subscription is attached to its own unique debit card, which offers the functionality to cancel or pause payment, giving me visibility over subscriptions and control over unexpected charges.
  • There is an Australian service called Hudled that proactively helps you manage your SaaS (software as a service) expenses. Hudled looks at how the solution is used, suggests downgrades to simpler plans and alternative options, and also negotiates discounts on your behalf.

Many solutions are developing swiftly, and a feature that was ‘meh’ 18 months ago is a must-have today. An example is BGL SmartDocs 360, which transforms paper documents into digital data and is now a solution accountants rave about. Regular reviews ensure I’m getting optional usage and maximum efficiency from the software I use.

Joyful summer decluttering plans

While I have some good systems in place and deleted about 70GB of data as I wrote this article, I need to spend time over the summer decluttering my downloads folder and adopting the ongoing habit of regular reviews. I’m also looking forward to sharing some forgotten videos on social media, which shall bring me joy!