3 Tips for Digital Spring-Cleaning That Will Make Your Life MUCH Easier

This is a sponsored feature. All opinions are 100% our own.

We all know the importance of spring-cleaning – it’s a time to de-clutter, start fresh and achieve a renewed sense of Zen in the middle of the year. We usually focus on physical objects and tasks, like donating the clothes we never got around to wearing in the last 12 months. But there’s a different kind of spring-cleaning that we should all incorporate into our routine: digital spring-cleaning!

Digital spring-cleaning is all about simplifying, managing and consolidating everything that makes up your digital life, whether that’s your bursting email inbox, your scattered class notes or the overwhelming number of devices you use. Digital spring-cleaning was a new concept to me before I attended Microsoft’s Champions Summit for lifestyle and technology bloggers in Seattle last month, but I left the event knowing that there were definite changes I would be making in my life. Read on for my top tips for digital spring-cleaning!

1. Ditch your SLR and invest in your smartphone

Taking a great photo takes technique and practice, and that starts with always having your tool of choice ready. At the summit, I met a couple photographers from We Are Juxt, a group of mobile photography enthusiasts from across the US who have quite literally ditched their SLRs and invested in their smartphones. Their blog exclusively features mobile photography, and the photos are stunning, since many of today’s smartphone cameras come incredibly close to matching the capabilities of traditional SLRs.

Photo taken by We Are Juxt co-founder Brad Puet using a Nokia Lumia 1020

I thought of my own SLR gathering dust on my bookshelf, and knew this was a switch I wanted to make as well. I love the idea of owning mobile photography as a legitimate medium, not just a way to take quick and thoughtless pictures (though, of course, smartphones can satisfy our need for selfies, too). So download some apps on your phone (I recommend VSCO Cam, LINE camera and Snapseed), be amazed at all you can do and leave the heavy SLR at home! For those looking to get a smartphone with a top-of-the-line camera, check out the innovative Nokia Lumia line of smartphones. The phones feature cameras with Carl Zeiss lenses with up to 41mp capabilities paired with thoughtfully designed and versatile capture and editing software. With the built-in Nokia Camera App on these phones, you have the ability to manually control all of your settings, like ISO, shutter speed and focus, as you can with an SLR!

2. “Sweep” away those newsletters clogging your inbox

If you’re like me, you wake up every morning to an inbox clogged with newsletters, digests and deal emails, most of which you end up deleting immediately without even reading them. Dealing with each of these emails takes time and diverts attention from the truly important emails in your inbox. Even if you have a filter separating your mail for you, this useless mail is still taking up a lot of space, and unsubscribing from all of those newsletters becomes a more and more daunting task over time.

Enter Outlook, an email service built by Microsoft that’s basically a collegiette’s digital spring-cleaning BFF. Outlook has a neat tool called “Sweep” that allows you to set rules for how your inbox will deal with incoming mail from certain senders with one click, including my personal favorite: “Always keep the latest one, Delete the rest.” So handy for emails with timely content! Thanks to Sweep, you can handily get your inbox in tip-top shape with only a few clicks.

Intrigued but afraid to make the leap to a new email service? Not to worry! Outlook allows you to import existing email accounts you already own, so it can function as a catchall inbox for you and allow you to keep using the email addresses you already use. And, for all you collegiettes who are graduating this month, check out www.MicrosoftForGrads.com, a great new resource from Outlook.com. The site has tips and tricks for making the transition to your professional career, such as how to updgrade from your .edu email address and OneDrive tips for organizing your application materials. Give Outlook a try at outlook.com!

3. Use OneNote to consolidate and share notes and lists

I can’t conclude this post without mentioning OneNote, my hands-down favorite note-taking tool. If you haven’t heard of OneNote yet, it’s an extremely powerful app that categorizes your notes in tabs within notebooks synced across all your devices. It’s great to use for taking class notes where you want all your lecture notes together instead of spread out in multiple documents. It’s also shareable, so you can collaborate on the same notebook with friends or roommates in real time. For a more in-depth look at OneNote, check out one collegiette’s video review:

I learned about two exciting OneNote updates at the summit that I’m excited to share. First, OneNote is now available for iPhone, iPad and Mac as a stand-alone application that you can download from the App Store for free. Now you’ll be able to access your notes across all the platforms you use, whether it’s a PC, a Mac, a tablet, a phone or the web.

Second, OneNote for iPad now comes with an awesome tool called Office Lens (available in the Windows Phone Store and included in OneNote for iPad and iPhone) that turbocharges your note-taking during a lecture or presentation. Imagine sitting at the far right side of a lecture hall. You can use your Windows Phone, tablet, iPad or iPhone to take a photo of the projection screen and add it to your notes. You then have an option to make the text within the image searchable so you don’t have to retype anything. Office Lens also automatically de-skews and cleans up the image so that you have a straight-on, legible image. Genius! So go ahead and create a notebook or two at OneNote.com and see what you can do with OneNote – to-do lists and class notes are just the tip of the iceberg!

Happy digital spring-cleaning, collegiettes!