25 May 2013

Simplify Your Online Routine

I like to keep it simple.

The apps I use to get through my day came with my phone: a calendar and a checklist.
I rely on my calendar completely, utilizing it frees up my mind for better things. I enjoy deleting the completed tasks from my checklist – rather than just ticking the box – because it makes me feel like I have obliterated a foe. 

I have tried a few productivity and time management apps: Pomodoro, Evernote… Some people swear by them, but to Sonya's point – I only felt I was giving these apps unnecessary time and attention, dealing with one more interface, one new set of alerts.

I am no Luddite. I'm not against trying a new, promising app. It's just that I often get the suspicion that many of them are trying to sell something back to me that I already possess: concentration and willpower.

Illustration by Anabel Bouza

Simplicity is at the root of carving free time for the things that are important. To us, living in a hyper-connected world, this means we must find new ways to streamline not only our physical routines, but our digital habits as well.

These are my four basic magic tricks. They make for a quieter day, I promise:

Postpone checking your email.
Remember how it was before the Internet, when you would have time to wake up before carrying on with your life? You were not expected to compose and send out letters immediately. Some things came first: getting ready for your day, or having breakfast. 

Checking your email first thing in the morning will immediately change how you approach your day. It presents you with chains of tasks that push back your original plans.
Worse still, if you do your best work in the mornings. I believe those with this particular superpower are called morning people. 

You should be using your peak performance time getting the important work done – creating, not wading through your inbox.

Unsubscribe from pesky marketing emails.
Reevaluate which promotions you want to hear about. Discovering that one of your favorite stores is having a sale will probably send you down the rabbit hole of virtual window-shopping. Don't give up your precious morning energy so easily! I bet you don't even need what's on sale. 

Not ready to unsubscribe completely? Modify your subscription preferences to hear from marketers less often. 

Streamline your online reading.
If you are like me, the list of blogs and sites you follow is pretty extensive. At some point my list became so monumental that reading through the feeds felt like a chore. Feelings of guilt ensued: all that lovingly crafted content, shared with an open heart by fellow bloggers, and no time – or the disposition – to read it...!

Make sure you're keeping your blogs, news, style and inspiration sites all in one place.
If you use Google Reader, you probably know by now that it is scheduled to be discontinued. People are flocking to other feed aggregators (Bloglovin, Feedly, Flipboard, Google Currents for instance) and you should too: Google Reader is going away on July 1st!

I have already migrated my feed subscriptions over to Feedly, and I'm in love with it. Its minimalist look and crystal clear navigation have turned my daily reading into a relaxing experience once more. 

Minimize alerts and notifications. 
Do you really need to be informed whenever an email lands on your inbox, or every time something happens on Facebook? Modify your notifications so that you're not being jolted by them all day long. Your focus suffers every time you react to a chiming desktop or buzzing phone.

Worried about time sensitive emails? Create priority levels and be alerted about incoming messages from specific senders.

Hope these tricks help you reclaim some quiet and free time. Give them a go, and share some tricks of your own!

Anabel Bouza insists there's powerful magic in the action of creating something out of a vague vision, a chill of inspiration. She is an illustrator with a passion for nature, paper manipulation, and pointing her camera at things.

Her appreciation for simplicity dates back to a former life in Cuba - her strange homeland - where she refined the ability to see the alternative uses of common objects, and the enchanting side of things. She's often found blogging as
Weird Amiga, hard at work in her sunny studio, or staring at things as if looking at them for the first time. Her tiny family is comprised of husband & a turtle. Connect to Anabel via facebook and twitter.


  1. Great post, I agree totally--I didn't realize how much time I'd waste clicking on promotional links and emails while I was online instead of working. Cutting back has helped a ton with my productivity offline, and I didn't realize how much time I was wasting until I stopped--I had become so used to just spending several hours a day, that I was shocked at how much time I got back.

    1. Thank you for reading! I'm glad you have found your own balance. :)

  2. Fantastic list of suggestions! Thanks for sharing these ideas. I have gotten better at reading email just a couple times a day, but I do feel guilty when I don't get to the list of blogs I read. Something I need to work on I guess.
    Everyday Inspired