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,