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The Top 10 Online Habits That Make My Life Simpler

Image: Steve Keys / License

“Three Rules of Work: Out of clutter find simplicity; From discord find harmony; In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”
Albert Einstein

After having spent over 3 years with writing on this website – thank you all for the support during the years! – I have done much work online and like to keep my life here simple.

I do things that way because I want to spend most of my time doing creative stuff like writing. Or hanging out with friends and people close to me. Or just relaxing. So I want to keep my life as simple and relaxing and free of unnecessary negative stuff as possible.

  1. I write short emails. I tend write emails containing only a few sentences, usually between one and five. If you focus on keeping it short and focused then you’ll probably discover that this is a good solution in most cases.
  2. I check blog comments, email, Facebook etc. only once a day. Having a pretty strict routine with all the checking you can do online reduces not only how many times a day you check the same sites. It also reduces aimless online browsing a lot in general in my experience. I usually attach this routine after my regular morning routine and at least moderate blog comments and my Facebook account during that time. This keeps things consistent.
  3. I don’t subscribe to feeds by using a RSS reader. If you don’t want drop all your RSS-feeds completely, consider trimming them. Perhaps to just the 10 feeds that you read the most?
  4. I subscribe to very few blogs or newsletters via email. This reduces clutter and distractions in my inbox. There is usually an unsubscribe link at the bottom of newsletters etc. Spend just five or ten minutes to click those links and unsubscribe from the those emails you never read anyway.
  5. I singletask to not become distracted. I do for example not moderate comments while at the same time having the newspaper and email inbox open in other tabs. I do one thing at a time and finish that one before moving on to the next one. This stops me from letting hours of time each week disappear while flicking around between all those open tabs and windows in my browser.
  6. I’m careful with Instant Messaging availability. If you are available on MSN Messenger, Skype or the chat function for Facebook then people will probably want to talk to you. This can create a lot of interruptions and you spend a lot of time with catching up or having random discussions. Nothing wrong with chatting of course, but make sure that it doesn’t steal focus and time away from your most important things. Focus on your work when you are working and focus on instant messaging when you have time for that.
  7. I very rarely visit online forums. This habit is not for everyone of course. Online forums can be great support groups and so on but consider your forum use and how you can improve your forum habits. Perhaps you can just check your favorite forum and post once a day? Or unregister from the ones that you just spend time on but don’t really get that much out of?
  8. I use Teux Deux for my to-do list. I use this free online to-do list and I keep my list short each day. Only the two or three most important tasks. This keeps me focused and helps me to just remember what to focus my time on today. I then use the tool in the tip below to allot time for the different tasks and other activities.
  9. I use Google Calendar for my schedule. This one helps me to actually get started with doing something at the right time. And to finish it within perhaps an hour instead of letting the task take all afternoon (or in some cases all day). It also helps me reduce procrastination and aimless browsing because it tells me what to do next when I get lost in daydreams or feel like checking the Oatmeal for way too long.
  10. I set time limits. This is usually shorter time periods that I don’t have in my schedule. I can for instance find such a time period if I finish a scheduled task early or just need a break. I do for example check Twitter a few times a day – two or three – for just 5 minutes each time period. This does of course expand into more time from time to time but generally I stay within those limits. It may be hard to do so in the beginning but after a while your discipline becomes stronger.

3 quick tips for adopting these habits

Here are three simple things that make it easier to adopt these habits and to stick with them.

Use small, invisible barriers to quit a website.

I have removed the websites I got a bit too fond of from my bookmarks in Firefox. Now I have to type in the address or google for the websites. This extra, very small barrier has helped me to check the websites far less than I used to. Oftentimes I forget to check them for many days and realize that they weren’t really that important after all.

Do the right thing.

Procrastinating usually makes you feel stressed and kinda lousy about yourself. But if you do the right thing each day and focus on finishing the most important tasks in your life then you feel good about yourself. Your self esteem goes up and over time your sense of what you deserve in life goes up too. This is a very powerful motivation for me at least to stick with these habits each week and to not get stuck in procrastination.

Have better things to do.

I usually don’t feel much like spending a lot of extra time online. It’s simply more fun and exciting to do other things. I have been writing about just getting a life quite a bit lately. But I feel that if people just have more exciting lives in general – and that don’t have to mean skydiving each day, just perhaps getting a hobby or signing up for some local course – then many problems with overanalyzing things, needless drama and complications and aimless online procrastination would decrease or go away.

Because now you simply don’t have the time or energy for that anymore.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • As many of us become increasingly computer-centric and enjoy the benefits of the internet and technology, we also face added challenges to productivity. As you stated, not “doing the right thing” makes us feel terrible about ourselves. These guidelines and tips for increasing productivity are so helpful, and really relevant to our daily lives. Thanks so much for the wise words!

  • Great tips! I have one to add: don’t open an email unless you are prepared to respond to it (if it takes 5 minutes or less). I used to find that I would browse through emails just to see what I got, but would wait to respond until later because I was lazy… which means double the time is spent on emails since I need to re-read when I finally respond.

  • I found this post very helpful. I particually like the idea of checking comments, facebook, and email only once in a day. This takes a lot of discipline, but I do see how the results can be very dramatic when one practices this daily.

  • First of all, I love that quote from Einstein. And you’re right. Many of us complain that we don’t have time to do the other stuff we couldn’t do. But if we don’t have the discipline to control the time we spend online, we wouldn’t really have the time for anything else. I agree, it’s all about time management and prioritizing. Personally, I never liked RSS feeds. I feel like it’s just like people spamming my email. And let’s face it, we don’t read all of those feeds. Not that I’m saying it’s not useful. It’s just sometimes, it’s added clutter and distraction.
    The important thing is to stay disciplined and stay focused. Here are some tips on staying focused http://budurl.com/2jdz

  • Thanks for the constructive suggestions for someone who is helplessly disorganized. Next week, I will link to this in my post: 10 Memorable Tips for the Forgetful Parent.

  • As a fairly new blogger, I’m trying to find balance with online time v. focused work time. I’ve slowly been reducing the number of times to check email, Facebook, comments, and stats. It does make a difference in my productivity when I stay on task.

    Question: Do you have any particular tips for new bloggers? I’m in the food blog faction and the vast number of online food networks and social networks is a bit overwhelming. Any thoughts are appreciated?

  • I just LOVE how you write an article about efficient online habits, including tips like “don’t subscribe to too many RSS feeds” and “don’t get too many email registrations”…

    and below the article….

    is an RSS feed
    and an email subscriber 😀

  • These tips are so simple but that’s what makes them such helpful advice. I get distracted working online all day with clicking around to different sites. I need to better regiment when I do what and for how long. Maybe its a product of a short attention span, or simple boredom from working alone all day every day. But I will take these tips to heart, so thank you for them!

    Glad to have found you blog.


  • Hi Henrik,

    It’s nice to see someone taking a stand about minimizing all the incoming distractions! Those distractions certainly abound and will not be going away any time soon (in fact, I believe that our world will only get “busier” and more distracted as time goes on).

    Something I did recently was unsubscribe from all (yes, all!) e-newsletters; I no longer receive any subscription emails. Instead, I choose to keep up with those folks I admire via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and my Google Reader/feeds. That way, I can ‘go to’ the information when it’s good for me…rather than it coming to me at a time when I’m involved in something else. This eliminates the need to make the decision on the spot: “What should I do with this email now?”

    Appreciate hearing your insights on the topic–sounds like you’ve got a good thing goin’ on!

  • Swallow that frog as they say! Getting rid of the hardest task first always allows you to move onto something easier next. This is a great way of starting the day.

  • Simple yet very informative. This post really made me think of how I, most of the time, waste hours checking Facebook updates, etc. I personally check Facebook for i don’t know..gazillion times in a day maybe. I now realize that I was just seeing the same updates over and over, there may be a few new added updates but they’re mostly from Facebook applications and games.

    Your blog post is something I should have read a long time ago. I’ve been too preoccupied with so many unnecessary things, letting them take control of my way of living. You just made be see how simple life can be. All we need is willpower. This also reminded me of what my Dad used to tell me when I was a child… “Less is More”. In this case, less procrastinating, more time for important matters.

    PS: Click on http://sn.im/wyeyb and know more on how to make your every day a simple yet great day.

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