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