Spring Cleaning: 5 Tips for Being a More Organized Historian

Whether you are working from home, a windowless office, a local café, or the confines of a library carrel, uncluttering your workspace can help you create order out of the chaos of the end of the semester. As we enjoy the blooms and time off that accompany spring, take a moment to consider your cleaning and organizing rituals.

office-clutterHere are a few tips to keep your workspace and digital life organized. Some of these tips came to us by way of Twitter, while others are inspired by related spring cleaning lists.

Delete/Filter E-mails. Now is a great time to go through your inbox and delete old e-mails before you reach the dreaded size limit in your mailbox. Many people use their e-mail to store their to-do lists and file attachments, which can often clutter up an inbox. Organize your inbox using folders (or labels) and filters to keep less important e-mails out of your inbox, while archiving the ones you need to hold on to. If you use Gmail, Mashable offers a great guide to harnessing the power of filters, and a similarly useful guide for Outlook is here.

Update Your Digital Presence. Haven’t updated your profile on Academia.edu in a few months? Take stock of your social media profiles and consider what needs updating to reflect your current position and professional credentials. Having outdated resumes and professional profiles online can be professionally damaging, particularly if you are on the market for a new position. If someone Googles you, your LinkedIn or Academia.edu profile will likely show up in the first or second spot and you want to paint the most compelling (if not the most accurate) picture of who you are and what you have been up to in the last six months.

If you are feeling ambitious, consider de-cluttering your Facebook and Twitter newsfeeds by prioritizing your friends, unfollowing (or hiding) the ranters, and creating Twitter lists that filter by subject, tweeters, and hashtag.

Organize. Evaluate how you organize your digital and physical documents. Each individual has unique organization needs, but conventional record management schemas rely on organizing material by file types first (including e-mail, photos, music, and Word documents) while getting more specific in subfolders. Organizing by semester or year is great, but academics also typically break down their records by source material, notes, lectures, conference presentations, writings, reviews, and recommendations (just to name a few). Last but not least, only work with active folders, or files you are retrieving on a regular basis. Once they move from active to archivable, empty them into an archivable folder on your desktop, USB drive, or the cloud.

Back It Up. No one wants to lose precious files to a computer virus, so take the time to back up the contents of your files. Many experts recommend getting an external hard drive to make a complete backup of your system, but there are many cloud storage solutions that allow you to schedule a backup to the cloud, saving you time (and potential heartache). Cloud storage plans can range anywhere from a variety of free basic plans that average 2 GB of storage to $100/month for unlimited storage capabilities.

Return the Library Books. As most academics know, by mid-semester the number of library books checked out to you could rival a pop-up library. Start a pile of library books you have finished and make a trip (or two or three) before the break is over. You will avoid costly overdue fines and may even avoid the always preventable death by library book avalanche.

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  1. Jim Cortada

    A couple of thoughts:
    –When you finish writing a chapter, pack up the files and other stuff used and store them until some copyeditor challenges the accuracy of a footnote.
    –When you have published a book, donate unneeded materials right away to your library.
    –If that doesn’t work well enough, write more books quicker so that you can get rid of more stuff. Really!

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