Bit Literacy (a brief review)

Mark Hurst offers practical suggestions on how to maintain our sanity in a digital world that threatens to overwhelm us.

Bits are tiny electrical impulses that make up every kind of digital file we use (e-mails, web pages, photos, music, text documents). And though they are physically weightless, the stress that accumulated, unmanaged bits add to our lives often makes them feel weighty to us. That is why we need to become “bit literate.”

Consider the following advice…


  • Don’t use the inbox as a storage area.
  • Instead, get your inbox to zero at least once a day.
    (A tool he created,, provides a way to turn requests into date-specific to-dos.)

Media diet:

  • Only subscribe to the very best e-mail newsletters, blogs, podcasts, etc. Don’t feel that you need to (or that you even can) keep up to date with all the news that is available.
  • Learn how to read a URL so that you can avoid certain online scams.


  • Take several shots of each scene.
  • Delete all but the best.
  • Store with a two-level system (year | month-event)

Text formats:

  • If document doesn’t need to be printed: use ASCII
  • If document needs to be printed and edited: use Word, Google Docs, InDesign (then share the document in PDF)

Naming files and folders:

  • Most files: initials-date-topic.extension
  • Space name (or underscore) files (example: “_contact” or “_schedule”)
    These are special folders or files that you want to appear at the top of an alphabetical list.
  • Ongoing files: canvases and log files
    These use a slightly different naming convention (putting the date in the name wouldn’t make sense since you are continually adding to the file).

There are a lot of other tips in the book, some of which may need to be adapted to your specific situation. But I appreciate both the breadth and the level of detail that Bit Literacy provides.


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