When holding onto everything impedes your ability to actually accomplish anything, it's time to pull the plug and drain the swamp.
Okay, I admit it. I'm a digital hoarder. The other day, after receiving a notification that my inbox was bursting at the seams, I counted no fewer than 10,000 emails, including some that dated as far back as 2005, when I first started working at EXHIBITOR. What's more, that total doesn't count any of the missives stored in the 60 individual folders full of my electronic correspondence on practically every topic under the sun. In fact, I had so many archived emails that my account was no longer capable of sending and receiving messages. It had buckled under the weight of my data-heavy trove, and a pulse of anxiety surged through me as I quivered at the prospect of curating 12 years of communiques.
Meanwhile, my Dropbox account was experiencing similar symptoms, and even my laptop, my trusty high-tech steed, was ready to roll over and die as I neared the limits of my bandwidth. It was time I faced facts; I had to undergo a digital detox.
Thankfully, I am not alone when it comes to this malady. I routinely hear from exhibit managers who complain of everything from overflowing inboxes to excessive exhibit inventories. And whether your collection is digital or dye-sub, the prognosis is the same: You simply cannot store it indefinitely. And the longer it takes you to realize this, the harder it's going to be to dig yourself out from under the mountain.
For many professionals, the status quo is simply too hectic for routine housekeeping. Who has time for spring cleaning when we're still sprinting to finish what we didn't get around to last fall? As a result, we tend to put off until tomorrow what we don't even have time to think about today, and the result is a chaotic mess that never comes clean. And unlike that red-wine stain you covered up with a rug instead of spot treating, hoarding-related messes will only increase over time.
How do we minimize without losing our minds? There are a billion self-help books on how to declutter our lives, but the last thing a digital hoarder like me needs is a Library of Congress worth of new ebooks on living simply and letting go of anything unnecessary. So rather than seek out insight into the art of throwing things away, I ripped off the Band-Aid, deleting thousands of old emails, ridding my cellphone of photos and video clips, and nuking the majority of my Dropbox account.
It wasn't easy at first. After all, I'm absolutely positive that I discarded something – and very likely several somethings – that I'll need to hunt down in the future. But when holding onto everything impedes your ability to actually accomplish anything, it's time to pull the plug and drain the swamp, so to speak.
While I was at it, I turned from my inbox to my office and trashed a huge cache of old magazine clippings, outdated files, and random mementos from events I no longer remembered. And when I was done, I felt a sense of calm that had eluded me since I started amassing all the things I mistakenly thought I needed. Clutter begets chaos, but a thorough cleanse can work wonders, whether you're tidying up your inbox, office, or exhibit warehouse. You'll save time, decrease stress, and maybe even slash your storage fees.
Bottom line: When faced with daunting, time-consuming tasks that have grown from mere annoyances to full-blown crisis over the years, it's often better to dive in head first than dip your toes in and slowly wade into the water. Granted, the details of my detox may be irrelevant to those of you who are new to the industry, or just starting out at a new organization. Still, some day, a decade or so into your career, you just might wish you had this on hand. But do me a favor and don't hang on to it until then. E