Time wasting junk
Over the last 2 weeks I’ve been on an e-cleaning binge! That means I’ve been sorting out loads of electronic files of all types and cleaning up electronic messages. Did I say ‘electronic messages‘? Just checking. Yes – I did! Some fool wants to know what does ‘electronic messages’ mean. Chrysst! People don’t know what a struggle it is keeping at bay, this fool that resides at the back of my head. Today I’ve resolved not to let the fool break out onto this page.
At the end of this post I share some links to applications and equipment that I’ve found useful. Nothing in this post is to be construed as advice.
Right – electronic messages means anything that is a message that is transmitted or received electronically. That means things like text-based messages of any type, images or video sent to me, emails, other types of attachments.
So what’s all this junk? It’s about the following broad categories:
- Alerts from sites I’ve subscribed to.
- Unsolicited alerts from sites I subscribed to or those that I had been involved with at some point in the past.
- Invitations to purchase something.
- Various announcements – policy changes, updates etc.
Just to be clear – I’m not focusing on emails exclusively. But email is a massive chunk of all this – so I’ll focus on that for a bit. To get a perspective see the image where I’ve deleted almost 60,000 emails – and there’s more to go. This is after automated spam filtering was operating in the backdrop. Did I say that I expected spam filtering to be perfect? I did NOT! The point is, that because it is not perfect, means that I get loads of junk emails. The reality was that most of these junk emails were not spam. So, spam filtering did what it was supposed to do. A few spam emails did get through, but those were approximately 1%, which is pretty good.
Well, I was able to search for similar emails and weed loads out in batches. This then became a minor obsession for a while – like about 10 hours over a few days. I just had to see what’s all this junk about. I unsubscribed from loads of stuff. In the major flush out, I realised that I did not and would not read 99.9% of those unread emails. If I did, it would take an unacceptable chunk out of my life! Errh.. how much? 60,000 by say minimum of 5 seconds, would be 300,000 seconds = 83 hours = 3.5 days. Of course 5 seconds per email is pretty minimal. But what people do not count is ‘recovery time’. This is the time it takes to properly refocus on a task after just scanning some junk email. This time has been researched (not by me) and reliably found to be about 64 seconds when at a place of work. My final estimate of total time impact for personal emails is 10 seconds for reading and 20 seconds, for non-workplace emails = 30 seconds. Recalculating, I arrive at 21 days. I totally get it that for some people, 3.5 or 21 days over a year means little. Thankfully, I am not ‘some people’. So – I’m totally happy I didn’t spend 21 days reading or being distracted by junk. I could just leave those emails to pile up in my inbox, where there is no limit beyond 6 years. However, I decided to re-evaluate how I interface with organisations and people. The problem remains, even though it may not affect me if I did nothing. Changes are coming.
So much for email. Then there are things like messaging apps. Thankfully, I keep my circles very very small. So, I don’t have to look at my messaging apps on a morning, like some people I know, and discover 200+ messages gathered in there overnight. I’m told that it’s stuff like ‘who said what to who’, ‘how heartless A, B, or C is’ and other mindless mind-numbing gossip. Oh yes – some of those folk may read this blog and know themselves. Did I name or identify anybody? I did not!
Electronic files – screenshots, photographs, receipts, educational material, policy documents – are certainly more important stuff. What I realised is that loads of these were important at one time, but may not be at the present time. So that definitely needed some weeding out. There are some that will remain historically important forever, so those need to be preserved forever. Then there is a risk that in throwing out stuff, I do not accidentally delete something that may become important in a few years although it’s 20 years old say. Simpletons think recovery is only a matter of a recycle bin. I shan’t go into that because I’m not necessarily talking about hard drives or whether cloud drives do a recycle bin.
‘Duplicates’ cause a problem. But when I say duplicates I mean there could be several copies of the same in various folders. I won’t go into the sound reasons why this happens – and should continue to happen.
Filenames are important. At various times I’ve named files differently. My strategy now is to name files as follows: [Date]_[Time]_[Big category]_[Smaller category] _[Basic_description]. This helps when later on there is a need to sort by file name. I tend to do most of my searches by file date. Files will be named almost exclusively in lower case, and filename fields separated by underscores or dashes.
Another challenge then becomes synchronising my 5 or so backups held securely in various places. So, while I’m on a bit of a break I’m chipping away at all this. It’s taking time but I think it’s gonna be useful and improve efficiency for the future i.e. avoiding headaches.
- Bulk rename utility – free utility – not for the intellectually dim who go ‘I’m not an IT expert’.
- EasyDuplicateFinder – not free – but then again it depends on how one costs one’s time later on.
- Robobasket – not free – but useful for sorting files using various parameters.
This is not for folk who don’t care if they lose their data.
- Acronis – local and cloud backup.
- Google Drive – and G-Drive backup and sync. There are many other cloud-based backup services.
- Network access server – for local backup – not immune to fires or other forms of destruction or theft.
- Basic backup hard drives – removable and non-removable – can falter in time.
- USB drives – these are pretty useful but can fail after a few years.
- Blu-ray backups – this is not a recommendation to purchase this one. Did I say you can’t use DVDs? I did not. Note that only Blu-ray mdisc lasts for 1000 years. Other media may degrade faster. And no – I don’t plan on being around for 1000 years, some may be delighted to know!
Note very carefully that most hacks on local or cloud-based services are due to weak passwords that are subject to xieve or brute force attacks. Most people avoid complex passwords because:
- They don’t like typing in goobledeegook passwords.
- They can’t remember difficult long passwords.
I’ve recommended before, using Roboform but laziness shall prevail.
I derive no pecuniary or other advantages in the past, present or future by sharing this information. And finally, just to be 100% clear, I am not responsible for anybody’s data if they lose it in using any of the above.