10 Ideas to Simplify Your Online Life

By . Filed in Web 2.0

In a time when the world is connected to the Internet 24/7, it’s hard to imagine how we can survive a day without it. Our work, social life and entertainment depend on being connected so much that we feel that living a life without connectivity is impossible. All the info we obtain online: the emails, news feed, tweets, social networking statuses etc can make us feel a little overwhelmed. If we don’t have some form of organization in our online life, it will be hard to stay away long enough to live out our offline life.

I want my life back
(Image source: Marco Bardus)

I believe that we ought to distance ourselves from our online life to experience the richness of the offline world. How do we do that? By simplifying what we deal with online on a day-to-day basis. Not only will it help makes us more efficient with our online activities, it will also give us some ‘time off’ to get away from our matters on the Web.

Here are 10 basic tips you might consider using to help straighten out the mess.

1. Block Out Distractions

There you are, working on your latest report to be submitted by the end of the day. You probably either have Facebook or some IM chat going on in the background, so what usually follows is a switching of your windows every few minutes to check out Facebook updates or the latest tweets, or even replying to that blinking task bar from your chat app. Personally, I feel that this keeps me going when the task at hand gets too boring.

On the other hand though, I know how much more I could accomplish if I placed all my attention on the work to be done and remove all unnecessary distractions. If you don’t want your online life to be interfering with whatever you have to do, take my advice and put them aside. Despite being able to connect and obtain information like never before, such benefits can actually backfire and become a liability if you are find yourself being addicted to being connected all the time.

2. Leverage on Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is the ‘in’ thing now, with good reasons. Instead of storing data in a fixed storage device like your hard drive or thumbdrive, cloud computing enables you to put them on the Net in an online storage device, so to speak. That way, whenever you are connected to the Net, on whichever device you please, you will still have access to all your vital information.

Cloud computing enables you to be mobile. Storing all that you need online offers unprecedented convenience. You don’t have to carry around storage devices and worry about misplacing them or forgetting to bring them from one venue to the other. Secondly, you can access all your data any where an Internet connection is available and switch from one connected device to the next. Online life is never made simpler with file-sharing apps like Dropbox and synchronization services like Google Sync, Google Drive, or Amazon Cloud Drive.

3. Minimize Accounts

A pretty straightforward solution is to simply cut down on the number of accounts you are holding. If you have multiple social networking sites accounts and email accounts for different purposes (e.g. one for work, one for family, one for friends, etc), it will be hard for you to check on them individually and make sure that you are using the right account to contact them. Besides, unless you are using the same password for each account (which is not advisable), you’ll likely have a hard time recalling passwords.

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Take the minimalist approach if you want to simplify things online. At the most, choose no more than two accounts for social networking sites and emails each or consider accessing all your social networking sites from a desktop app.

4. Centralize Your Instant Messengers

The same thing applies for chat applications, except that it’s okay if you need to have multiple instant messaging (IM) accounts. After all, not everyone in your contacts would use the same IM platform as you normally do. All you need to do to make things easier is to put together all these accounts you have with a web-based service like Meebo Messenger and eBuddy.

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What they do is that they consolidate all your different IM accounts (and even social networking accounts) so that you’ll be logged in to all of them at a single go. Chatting will be a breeze now that you no longer have to log in to each individual accounts with their respective apps to reach your friends or contacts.

5. Manage Your Notifications / Updates

RSS feeds can get overwhelming when you subscribe to too many of them. The same goes for the daily notifications you receive on your smartphone on the latest update on Facebook, new add-ons for apps and many other clutter you may have. Remember that each time you are being notified, it takes your attention away from what you’re doing. You wouldn’t want unnecessary interruptions from them if you’re looking for a simplistic and efficient online universe. Configure those notification settings to filter out only what you really need to be informed about.

6. Designate Time for Online Chores

I have this unhealthy tendency to check my inbox, my Facebook, the news site and so on every 5-15 minutes even when I’m occupied with something on my computer. Sitting in front of a screen sort of conditioned me to do my routine chores even as I am working on my stuff. Multi-tasking is good at times, but I hardly think repeatitive checking is productive. It’s pretty obvious that these actions are robbing us of valuable time. Why not get the work done before we go check out the latest gossip in Facebook? The idea is to put aside some time to handle all our online chores, perhaps at the end of the day when we’ll get all the updates for the day.

7. Unsubscribe from Email Lists

We get subscribed to various email lists whenever we purchase or register products and services. That’s how they can market us their latest products or simply update us with what they’re up to. After awhile, you’ll realize that many of these emails don’t really provide us with the information we want, but we subscribed earlier on because we thought they might be useful eventually.

So, we instinctively delete those emails from our Inbox when we recognize the sender. Why not just unsubscribe from their mailing list? If your inbox is often flooded with spam, you’ll be surprised at how good it feels when you only get emails that you want to read.

8. Clear Your Inbox

Stopping unnecessary incoming emails is one thing, clearing your Inbox is a totally something else. Put read emails into relevant folders if you must, but keep the Inbox clean. It should only contain unread emails.

It’s a kind of discipline that you should impose on yourself as you try to keep your Inbox clear. It means that once you receive an email that requires your action, you have to act – reply, forwards, follow up, double check, confirm etc – and be done with it ASAP. After which, you can archive said email, and feel that sense of satisfaction when you realize your Inbox is empty until the next round of emails flow in. Once you have such a system in place, your online world will be more simplified knowing that you don’t have to work on emails no more.

9. Use Password Managers

For those with many accounts online, I can bet that most of you reuse the same username and password because it’s not easy to remember all of them. That’s not safe since gaining access to one of your account means that the rest of them can be hacked as well. A solution to this is to use password managers to remember your passwords. They are in fact, more secure than keying the passwords in yourself because they protect you from keyloggers when the managers input your passwords without having you typing.

Furthermore, they compare the current site’s URL to the stored sites’ URL and thus prevent phishing and pharming incidents. Apart from providing these features, most of these managers also assist in filling up those lengthy web forms that you’ll come across from time to time. Consider getting and setting up a password manager to guard your accounts well.

10. Have Time-outs or Day Offs

Try to schedule time-outs from the Internet every day or even on day offs. If you’re connected all the time, you’d feel like you’re always on the go, ready to jump into whatever mails or tasks you receive.


(Image source: hornoxe)

Everyone needs a breather, and enjoy quality time away from such tension. Take an hour or so of quality offline time each day, or a day during the weekends. Just switch off from the Net. You’ll realize that you feel much more energetic and alive when you’re moving around and talking to people.

Conclusion

Social interactions offline are worth much more than those you make on your instant messengers or social networking sites. Similarly, nothing you do in front of the computer screen can substitute for an awesome workout under the sun. The online aspect of your life should complement your offline world, not replace it. Simplify it and you’ll see that it can work wonders for you.

Author:

Michael is a freelance blogger and regular contributor for Hongkiat.com. He graduated from the National University of Singapore with a double major in Psychology and Communications & New Media in 2011.He believes in the power of the written word to influence and inspire. An enthusiastic video gamer, Michael is also actively engaged in various physical activities in his spare time.

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