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Small business spring cleaning? Here's how to get at those hard-to-reach digital places

© Provided by USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Satellite Information Network, Inc.

By Steve Strauss, USA TODAY

Is there anything more delicious than first signs of spring —blooming flowers, longer days, warmer nights? 

Well, an empty inbox might come in a close second. So how about we have our cake and eat it too?

Sure, I could write about how important it is to spring clean your small business, and it is – sprucing up the store, cleaning out the desk, getting rid of winter clutter – it’s all good.  

But let’s talk about the sort of cleaning that we all really need. E-cleaning. Digital detox. You know, cleaning up the sort of e-mess we all have way too much of. 

Yes, it’s time to give your business a digital spring cleaning.  

Here's how: 


Clean out your inbox

“Inbox Zero” is probably unrealistic, but Inbox 500 ain’t so good either. So here’s what you do: Create some new folders and rigorously go through your inbox. Prioritize. Delete. File. Respond. The process is akin to the famous decision box used by President Eisenhower: 

— Urgent – handle it now 

— Not urgent – schedule it / file it 

— Delegate it 

— Delete it. (Go on, it’s OK, you can!)


Clean out your contacts

Similarly, on your mobile device, tablets, and computer (because they are not all linked even though they should be, right?), go through your contact list and delete the deadwood; you know, that contact whose name is vaguely familiar from 2009. 

You can also use this exercise as a good excuse to check in with old contacts who may yet be valuable. I once sent a New Year’s greeting, apropos of nothing, to a bunch of old clients and ended up with a ton of unexpected new business. 


Unsubscribe

How many email newsletters are you getting that you never read? Too many, that’s how many. Time to unsubscribe.  

Gmail and Outlook make unsubscribing super easy. In Gmail, look for an “unsubscribe” link at the top of your email. In Outlook, it’s at the bottom. For the rest of us, it’s a necessary evil to do it manually. 


Cancel unused services

Recently, I noticed a charge for $2.99 on my bank statement and, with a little research, realized I had had that same charge every month for eight months (stop your snickering, I’m a writer not an accountant.) I had never used the service and they were nice enough to refund my money.  

So look for apps and services you no longer use, back up your data, cancel the service, and then delete the software from your computer and phone. 


Delete bookmarks

That article you saved three years ago probably can be safely deleted, right? Go for it, delete away; there are plenty of new worthless webpages yet to be bookmarked! 


Clean up your documents

This will take a while but will really be worth it. Taking the time to create appropriate folders and then deleting and filing away all of those scattered documents should really make your digital life easier. 


Clean up your peripherals

Get rid of old thumb drives. Toss out old CDs and unused hard drives (after wiping them clean first of course), get rid of old phones, printers, gadgets and doodads. 


Move to the cloud

You are already in the cloud of course, what with your email and photo back-up services, but it would behoove you to keep migrating there. Office 365, Google cloud services, and the like can help ensure that, once you have cleaned your e-life up, it will stay cleaned up just a little bit longer this time.

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