Decrease Visual Stimuli, Increase Productivity

Reader Contribution by Eliza Cross
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Researchers at Princeton University Neuroscience Institute found that too many stimuli in our visual fields can impair our ability to focus. Give your brain a break by creating a clean, uncluttered computer home screen. Many Windows-based programs automatically place “shortcut” icons on the desktop during installation. Unless you use them often, remove these buttons (you can still easily access the programs from your Start menu) by right-clicking the unwanted buttons, selecting “Delete,” and answering “Yes” to move the shortcut to the Recycle Bin.

Mac users can reduce icons by grouping similar apps or items into folders on the desktop; just select all the items you want to group, control-click one of the items, then choose “New Folder.” To delete unused folders from a Mac Favorites sidebar, right-click the icon and select “Remove from Sidebar.” If misaligned apps bother you, neatly arrange the icons on your Mac desktop by clicking on the “View” menu in “Finder” and select “Clean up” to make all icons align properly.

Avoid Electronic Hoarding

Once you’ve cleaned up your computer, develop new habits to keep your machine tidy and efficient:

Create a special email address to use just for newsletters and promotional purposes, and reserve your primary email address for important communications.

The program can help you identify and instantly cancel unwanted email subscriptions, and condense those you do want to read in digest form.

Delete duplicate/unwanted videos and photos right after you take them. Be especially stingy about saving images of landmarks, sunsets and landscapes, which tend to be less meaningful over time compared with photos of loved ones and friends.

Eliminate Electronic Waste

Here are a few tips from the Electronics TakeBack Coalition to get rid of outdated, unused electronics in ways that are environmentally safe and privacy-protecting.

Erase your data! Before recycling a device, make sure to clear it of all files and information. Simply deleting isn’t enough—all traces of data need to be removed. Some recyclers will do this, but you can also use free downloadable software such as Active@ KillDisk or Softpedia DP Wiper.

Donate items for reuse if possible. If your electronic item is reusable, consider donating it to an organization that gives refurbished electronics to schools and charities, such as the National Cristina Foundation or the World Computer Exchange.

Recycle your Cell phone. Cell phones are easy to recycle. You can mail them back for free to some recyclers, or bring them in for recycling at a retail store. Organizations such as Call2Recycle also have a network of collection sites that will take phones and rechargeable batteries.

Find a responsible recycler. If your item is broken or too old to donate, it should be recycled. Look for recyclers who are “e-stewards,” meaning they are certified to responsibly recycle, refurbish or reuse e-waste. Otherwise, look for recycling programs via your item’s manufacturer or via retailers such as Staples and Best Buy.

Eliza Cross blogs about simple, sustainable living at Happy Simple Livingand is the author of nine books about food and home design.