5 Simple Ways To Better Manage Your Time Online

Organize your online time

Photo: Danijel Grabovac

For all the wonderful ways the internet has made our lives easier, most people would agree that its vast expanse of competing applications and expectations has created even more time management and communication challenges. While I’ll probably be wrestling with better time management forever, these are some tips and tricks that have worked for me:

1. Save it for later.

I often find websites and articles I want to explore further, but I don’t happen to have time at the moment. In the past I’d end up with a dozen windows open on my browser, but now I use Instapaper to save sites and pages for reading later. Once you download the application you’ll have a little “Read Later” button on your toolbar that you can simply click to save the page. Review the contents of your folder later, on any device, when it’s convenient for you.

2. Ruthlessly guard and cull incoming e-mails.

Use a spam filter to eliminate most of the junk mail, and check the file once a week to make sure you haven’t missed any legitimate e-mails. Unsubscribe to newsletters and promotions that no longer interest you. Don’t, however, click the “unsubscribe” button for e-mails you never signed up for; unscrupulous marketers will recognize an active e-mail address and use it again. Instead, stop unwanted senders by marking their e-mails as junk and blocking their e-mail addresses. Delete unnecessary e-mails right away so they don’t build up in your inbox. Here’s a challenge for today: Go through your inbox and see if you can find 5 incoming e-mails to stop receiving. Continue weeding out nonessential e-mails on a regular basis.

3. Stay focused on your priorities.

Have you ever had a day where it felt like all you accomplished was responding to others’ e-mails? An incoming e-mail can often cause us to stop working on our own priorities and get sidetracked into responding to someone else’s priorities. Turn off any sound or pop-up that alerts you to new e-mails. You may wish to set aside two times a day to review and answer e-mails—perhaps mid-morning and later in the afternoon. Keep your replies short and sweet. I also remind myself that sometimes it’s more efficient to simply pick up the telephone and have a quick conversation about a complex topic.

4. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

Set up an e-mail address just for social media, newsletters, advertising and less-pressing matters. I like Google’s Gmail for this purpose, because the interface automatically sorts the incoming e-mails into “Primary,” “Social” and “Promotions.” This is a great address to give those dear folks who like to send jokes and chain letters, too. Don’t share your primary e-mail address with companies that ask for it on a form unless you absolutely have to.

5. Mind your minutes.

I love Design Sponge, Houzz and David Lebovitz’s food blog, but if I’m not careful I can discover that I’ve whiled away too much time exploring dreamy kitchens and French recipes. To limit the time you spend on a particular website, try Minutes Please. It’s a simple application that lets you set a specific time allotment for surfing a site, and then gives you a friendly little pop-up window when you have one minute left.

How about you? Do you sometimes feel like the internet is a huge, sucking time magnet, or do you generally manage your online activities well? Have you learned any tricks you’d like to share? I always love hearing your thoughts and ideas.

Hugs and have a happy weekend,

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About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of nine books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

Confessions of a Type A Personality

Sunshine in the trees

 

When you’re at home relaxing, what do you really see? I’ve been thinking about this question all week, after I had something of an epiphany about myself.

I had let our dog Maddie outside, during a quiet work day at my home office.

Black dog on green grass

 

Impulsively, I followed her out and sat down on the grass under the shade of a maple tree. Ahhhh…

Enjoying a summer day

 

The day was glorious as only a late-summer day in Colorado can be, and after I’d closed my eyes for a minute I opened them to take in the blue skies, lazy clouds, bees buzzing the flowers, and ripe tomatoes ready to be picked.

Black-eyed susans

 

cherry tomatoes

 

Feet against the sky

 

I would love to write here that I remained truly present, in a Zen way… that I simply appreciated the moment, soaked up the sunshine and fresh air, and experienced the surrounding beauty with a heart full of gratitude.

I experienced those fleeting feelings for a few moments, but then something shifted and my eyes settled on different things.

I began to notice the flaws.

My eyes slid down from those gorgeous blue skies to a hole in the chimney siding that a flicker drilled this spring. No! Add another home repair to our never-ending list.

Flicker hole in siding

 

I saw that the summer sun had caused the paint around the window trim to peel, too.

Peeling paint

 

The side garden has tendrils of bindweed climbing everywhere.

Bindweed

 

I saw dead tree branches that need to be trimmed, and I noticed that the hinges on the back gate have come loose again. The kids must have knocked over the brick edging I so carefully placed this spring.

Problems.

Whether I’m inside or outside our home, just about anywhere I look I can see something that needs to be fixed, or a chore that needs to be done. I realize I’ve developed a bad habit of focusing on these flaws and adding the tasks to my mental ‘To Do’ list, a habit which clouds my ability to see our home with grateful eyes.

Yet I am so very, very thankful for our home. In her book A Million Little Ways, Emily Freeman writes of being “addicted to measurable productivity.” How I recognize myself in her wise words.

Being a serial do-er isn’t necessarily bad, of course, but when my Type A tendencies mean that I can’t even sit under a tree for fifteen minutes without critically eyeing all the things that need to be done, something is out of balance. So my prayers and meditations this week have been these:

Let me be truly present.

Let me simply breathe in all that is precious and imperfectly perfect.

Let me always see our home through the eyes of a grateful heart.

Enjoy these lovely late summer days, my friends,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of nine books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

Slow and Steady Can Lead to Big Things

Turtle in the grass

Allow me to introduce Turnip, a beautiful female turtle my son and I are caring for this weekend. Her photo seems fitting for this final day of my six-day experiment to take photographs daily for 15 minutes.

Slow and steady is a concept I’ve learned to embrace. Big projects can be overwhelming, but I’ve discovered that working in small increments can help me make real progress. The key, for me, is to honor those small chunks of time and create space for them in my busy schedule.

How about you? Were you successful in devoting a little time to something meaningful this week? What would you like to focus on next? I always love hearing your comments and thoughts.

Enjoy the weekend and thanks for joining me in this endeavor. Here’s to slow and steady progress on the things that matter, for all of us.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

P.S. Georgina, a signed copy of The Quinoa Quookbook is headed your way. Congratulations on making time to write in your journal during a busy week.

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of nine books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

Let’s Talk About Resistance

face in a tree

Yesterday’s photo – a whimsical tree face

Most of us can identify a handful of activities that make us feel extraordinarily satisfied when we do them. A few on my list include exercising, writing, meditating, spending time with my family, praying, walking, gardening and creating. So why do I so often get to the end of the day and realize I’ve squandered most of my precious minutes on everything but those things?

Resistance comes in many forms. “You have too many important things to get done right now. Maybe you can take a walk later in the day,” that little voice says.

Or: “It’s only fifteen minutes anyway. It won’t really matter if you skip meditating today.”

Or: “What you really need is a weekend away in a quiet cabin. Then you can focus on your novel and do some great writing.”

My friend Diane Sieg—an author, speaker and yoga instructor who is one of the most active and productive people I know—says she talks to her resistance. “I’m not going to listen to you!” she says. “You’re not going to sidetrack me today.” And then she gets busy doing the things that matter.

How about you? Do you ever feel that mysterious pull to ignore those few actions that mean so much? How do you handle resistance? How would you feel if you devoted 15 minutes today to something worthwhile?

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

P.S. Congratulations to Denise at Wisdom From My Parents who won the giveaway of sunscreen from Block Island Organics. Check back again soon for more giveaways.

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of nine books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

A Better Glass of Water

Better glass of water

When I was a kid, our mom did an interesting thing with our water. She filled a pitcher with tap water and left it to sit out overnight, uncovered. In the morning, she covered it and put it in the refrigerator for our drinking water. My brain may be embellishing this memory, but as I recall the water was a pure and delicious for drinking as any bottle of designer spring water today.

These days, I fill a clean glass pitcher with water from our refrigerator’s water filtration system and let it sit out overnight. The filter removes contaminants and impurities (ours claims to even remove pharmaceutical residues), and letting the water sit uncovered for eight hours evaporates any traces of chlorine that might have been added to the water for sanitation. Refrigerating it ensures that we always have good drinking water, and my family loves it. It’s a free, easy way to help us all drink more water.

How about you? Do you filter your water, or do you have to buy bottled water? Do you have good tap water where you live, and have you ever tried this trick?

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of nine books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

Eliminate Weeds When They are Small, and Other Thoughts of Spring

Pulling dandelions

It’s the first week of April, and I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m bragging but our front yard is mostly free of dandelions. You heard me right.

We had snow followed by warm temperatures this week, and the ground is nice and soft. So I spent a very pleasant hour in the sunshine, absorbing Vitamin D and pulling dandelions – many of them very small. Of course, dandelion season hasn’t really started and we don’t use chemicals so the battle has just begun. But still. Today, I feel good about myself.

What about the back yard, you ask?

The back yard?

Dandelions

The back yard is a topic for another day, my friends. Because as I was pulling up the small dandelions in front, I was thinking about parallels to my life. Do you do that when you garden—sometimes think deep thoughts? I find that I do.

Deep Thought

So today, as I was pulling up small dandelions I was thinking about the areas of life where I might figuratively “pull weeds” earlier, with positive benefits. Here are some of the ideas I had:

  • Paying off small debts before they accumulate into bigger debts and big problems.
  • Aside from an occasional splurge, not over-eating or drinking too much wine. Weighing myself every day, and making adjustments as necessary.
  • Staying in touch with people I care about, and not letting too much time go by before we connect.
  • Speaking up if something is bothering me, instead of keeping it inside and giving resentment a chance to grow.
  • Setting aside quiet time every day for rest and reflection, so my brain doesn’t get burned out.
  • Asking for forgiveness quickly, and being quicker to forgive others.

How about you? Do you have any figurative weed-pulling strategies? Heck, I’d love to hear your literal weed-pulling strategies, too, since I’ve got that back yard to think about…

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of nine books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.