It is January 1st as I scribble this and this morning I was cleaning out my office. Not a New Years resolution so much as a long overdue task. Since I work from home when I’m not sitting on a plane this can be more of a mess than you would see in a corporate environment. My first instinct was to get out the leaf blower and be done with the office clutter expeditiously. There is no shortage of manuals and IT books that I’ve collected along the way. In the purge this morning I found a treasure trove of junk from when the IT world was flat including a VAX manual. Not entirely sure how this and some others had managed to escape the great purge last year.
First off you can tackle the really easy, albeit time consuming, task of decluttering your office and your digital life. I went through this process today and it was a giant time suck to be fair and I only managed to accomplish the office part. I’ve still got to clean up the digital mess that is my online presence and my meat space life. Those make an M. C. Escher painting look simple by comparison at times. Do you have boxes in your office with papers that you haven’t looked at in a year? Do they need to be their for any legal reason? No? Toss them out. Do you have a copy of a text book dealing with Windows 3.1? Are you planning on building a fort? Perchance need to repel a barbarian hoard attempting to scale your battlements? Lose the old books.
Now, let us move to phase two of this little endeavour. How many thumb drives, external USB drives, cloud based back up systems do you have…or really need? I was surprised as I rummaged through my office to find 17 USB sticks and 5 USB external drives. What was even crazier was the stack of floppy disks that had old virus code on them like Stoned, Whale and so forth. I have nothing that can read those disks any more and thanks to a ruptured AA battery I am rather certain that they’re no longer readable.
So, part of this exercise was to clear out files that I just don’t need anymore. I highly doubt that I would need a copy of Pegasus Mail for DOS or Firefox version 1.0 for any reason. Do yourself a favour and get rid of the old files unless you plan to open a museum of some description. Data detritus can be a real problem that will eat away at your free drive space until you end up buying more storage that you really don’t need.
Once you’ve cleaned up the old files you can switch to the third and most important part, your passwords. Is there an echo in here? Yes, I tend to tub thump on this subject a fair bit. OK, passwords. First off do you know where all of your passwords are? If you looked at the edge of your monitor for a post-it you may take a moment to slap yourself. I'll wait. One very easy way to handle password management is…with a password manager. I’ve written about these before. This is a good way to ensure you keep track and you can use the functionality of these tools to create strong passwords. Also, please do not, for the love of all that is good and holy, use a password on more than one site. You should have unique passwords for every site you use. It is good to keep proper password hygiene and well worth it to review your accounts on an annual basis.
This might seem simple but, it is a good reminder to take a moment to declutter, delete and check on your passwords. Start the year off fresh.
(Image used under CC from Mike Kniec)