As part of my yearly maintenance routine, I spend time each year going through a list of annual tasks. Things like archiving backups, removing unused apps, and of course purging and organizing data. As an aspiring minimalist, my approach is less is more. I am always downloading, consuming content, yes. But also I am constantly deleting and pruning as much as possible. It is a discipline and an art.
I have workflow routines for each day, week, month, and year. That is, I have a daily “to-do” list, a weekly to-do list, and monthly and yearly to-do lists. Some tasks like renew software licenses, are included only on the yearly list. Other tasks like check email are on the daily list. The ONLY thing that is on ALL of the to-do lists:
Purge as much unused data as possible.
That means I am constantly working to keep a careful ratio of incoming vs. outgoing data. Working in the digital realm is all about balance and control. You’ve got to not accumulate so much data that you bog down your system, gum up your workflow. You’ve got to find that balance where your data-consumption levels are tempered by your data-purging levels. The goal is to maintain optimal data equilibrium.
If you’ve been working online for any length of time, you know what I am talking about in this post. You keep going on, month after month, year after year, watching your storage space disappear, with data overflowing onto external drives, an increasingly unmanageable mountain of digital baggage.
Continual, periodic maintenance is paramount when it comes to personal data management. You’ve got to organize and purge data as you go. Else you’ll wind up drowning in an ocean of unsorted information. Prune your data as if it were a garden. Know what you have. Want what you keep. Delete everything else. Quite simply:
Know thy data.
I’ve always been a “purge” type of person, a minimalist both online and off, constantly getting rid of things that I don’t want or need. I delete as much unused data as possible at every opportunity. Even though, as a web developer and book author, I download probably terabytes of data every year, I am continually working to purge as much of it as possible. Case in point, after 20 years working online, my entire digital existence is less than:
That includes everything, including large multimedia files, audio, video, and so forth. All of my data fits on a single hard drive easily. If I had not, over the years, been so diligent with my purging efforts, I would imagine the total size of my data easily exceeding 650 Terabytes. Which would require an absurd amount of work and storage space to maintain properly. Who wants such heavy responsibility and liability to carry around for the rest of their life.
I put this out there not to say “hey look how cool I am” (okay kind of I am doing that who cares). I put this out there as a data point for your consideration. Other users will have other data points. Someone may look at this post and laugh, having only 700 megabytes of data. Or maybe there are users that manage petabytes worth of data. It’s all a big spectrum of infinite possibilities, with each user collecting and managing data in their own unique way.
Being a data minimalist keeps my workflow light and saves time for other, more rewarding pursuits.
So if you’re just getting started and haven’t really thought about it too much, consider the growth rate of your own data collection. If you’re just downloading and creating away, keeping everything and never deleting, you may come to regret years later. When you’re scratching your head trying to figure out where all the time went, and what to do with the endless mountains of data you’ve managed to collect.