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Clear The Clutter

By Dan Mason

Those extra clicks and time wasted searching for lost files add up. So take these three simple steps to help eliminate distractions and make time for more profitable activities.

1. Clear your desktop

Despite what some might think, your desktop is NOT a filing cabinet. In real life, try spending a couple of minutes clearing your desk (as far as possible) at the end of the day. That way, you’ll come into work with a clean start – not bogged down with yesterday’s loose ends. Treat your computer desktop the same way.

There’s another good reason for keeping your computer desktop clear. Bringing together a story may involve images, text, video and audio. Think of your desktop as a project workspace. When you’ve finished your story, the files can be archived.

And while we’re on the subject, it’s nice to have a holiday snap or family picture on your desktop, but wallpaper can be distracting and make the text under documents harder to read. Try a neutral-coloured screen – save your eyes and buy yourself a little more time.

2. Tune up your browser

Firefox and Safari are great, but Chrome is hard to beat for journalists …

Download to desktop. You’d be amazed how many people can’t quickly find downloaded files, or have a downloads folder bulging with unwanted files going back years. Or maybe not.

So keep it simple. Set your browser to download files to the desktop. The file(s) are quicker to find and you can archive or delete them as part of your new clear-desk policy. Go to Menu (that’s the three-bar button top right of Chrome) > Settings and click the ‘Show advanced settings’ link at the bottom. You’ll see an option to change the download location.

Tell Chrome to display a blank page at start-up.

Chrome blank start page

You don’t need Chrome’s help to find frequently-visited sites (See 3). Go to Menu > Settings, under the On Start-Up heading, choose Open a Specific Page or Set of Pages, and click the blue ‘Set Pages’ link. Type the words about:blank in the box.

Clear pages every time we open a new tab.

chrome-empty-new-page

You’ll need an extension for this. Go to this link for the Empty New Tab extension in the Chrome Web Store and click the blue Add to Chrome button. Hey presto, blank pages from on. (If you prefer the clutter, you can always remove the extension in Menu > Tools > Extensions).

3. Use the Bookmarks Bar

Bookmark Folders

Organisation is what works for you. But I don’t use Chrome’s bookmarks to save web pages for reading later or research … there are MUCH better tools for that. Think of bookmarks as tools, and the Bookmarks Toolbar (below the Chrome address bar) as your toolbox. (Show/hide the Bookmarks Bar by ticking Menu > Bookmarks > Show Bookmarks Bar).

Chrome comes with a few default bookmarks on the bar. You may have added others. If you don’t need them, get rid of them by right-clicking and selecting Delete.

To add a bookmark to the Bookmarks Bar, go to the page (or site) you want to bookmark and simply drag the page icon to the left of the address to the Bookmarks Bar. Change the bookmark title by right clicking and selecting Edit.

As your ‘toolkit’ of bookmarks grows, you’ll need a better way to organise them. And that’s where the Bookmarks Manager comes in (Menu > Bookmarks > Bookmarks Manager). Here you can organise your tools into nested folders for easy access.

This Resource page was written by Dan Mason, a journalist, media consultant and trainer, specialising in digital communications and social media. Dan trains all over the world and delivers the NUJ’s social media training in Wales.

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