20 Tips to Simplify Your Digital and Online Life

by Ramesh Natarajan on June 27, 2011

Digital information is overwhelming. If you don’t simplify your digital life, it will take over your real life. This article contains 20 tips to simplify your digital life.

  1. Use only two email accounts. How many email accounts do you have? If the answer is greater than two, you have some work to do. You just need one personal email, and one work email. There are folks who have an email address for family, an email address for close friends, an email address for college friends, an email address for online friends, etc. They end-up spending lot of time checking these constantly. Pick only one personal email address, notify your friends and family that you’ll be using only that address, and just give-up rest of your personal email addresses.
  2. Check emails only once per day. Depending on the nature of your work, you might have to check your work emails frequently. However, there is absolutely no reason to check your personal emails more than once per day. Change your current habit and workflow, so that you check your personal emails only once per day, preferably at the end of the day before you go to bed. This also means that you should stop checking personal emails on your phone.
  3. Uninstall unnecessary software. Uninstall all the software from your laptop that you don’t use. The less software you have the better it is. Some of the software runs in the background even when you are not using it, which takes away valuable CPU and memory resource from the laptop. So, keep only the software you use, and uninstall the rest.
  4. Cloud is your friend. Don’t use your local hard drive to store your documents. Use cloud based solutions. For personal documents, use Google Docs and Dropbox. Once you consistently use Google Docs for all your document needs, you can quickly access it from anywhere, and you don’t need to be tied-up to your laptop all the times.
  5. Use cellphone only for calls. Now-a-days everybody is on their phones all the times texting, checking emails, IMing, tweeting, watching videos, etc. Keep in mind that there is a real life out there with real people. Step outside your digital work, and enjoy the nature, enjoy the interaction with your family and friends. Using cellphone only for calls might be very hard to do for lot of you. But, give this a try for one week, and see the huge difference it makes in your life.
  6. Consolidate your social media acccounts. Do you have an account in every possible social media websites that you came across? Social media websites consume your time. They are like drugs. Once you are addicted, it is very hard to give-up, and they take-up all your time and energy. If you are still compelled to use social media websites for whatever reasons, just pick only one of your favorite site, and spend no more than few minutes per day on it.
  7. Have a framework to execute projects. You need a single system or workflow to stay organized. Use Getting Things Done (GTD) to get your projects organized, and execute all your tasks. You should be getting things done on an on-going basis, and GTD is an excellent framework to help you with that.
  8. Use keyboard shortcuts. Take some time to learn the keyboard shortcuts of the applications that you use frequently. Using keyboard shortcuts will increase your productivity dramatically.
  9. Cleanup your browser. Is your browser cluttered with several plugins, add-ons and toolbars? Keep only the plugins/add-ons that you use frequently, and uninstall the rest. If you have not used a plugin in the last couple of months, you probably don’t need that, just uninstall it.
  10. Limit your incoming digital information. Do you need to know anytime someone updates their linkedin profile, follows you on twitter, posts a message on your facebook wall, uploads a picture in picasa, etc? Make sure to adjust your profile setting in all those websites so that it doesn’t send you emails anytime some activity happens. If your friends keeps forwarding you funny emails, links to funny videos, or some chain emails, politely tell them that you are not interested in those emails, and request them to stop sending those emails to you. If you are reading news from tons of online sources, pick only one realiable news source and read your news from there.
  11. Don’t use instant messenger. While you are at work, would you have all your friends be sitting next to you, and disturb you from getting things done? Probably not. If that is the case, why do you have your IM turned on and allow your friends to disturb you while you are trying to get things done? If your family and friends needs to get hold of you immediately, they can always call you in your cellphone. Turning off IM when you are focussing to get things done is a good start, but you should really consider stop using IM all together.
  12. Clear your computer desktop. You really don’t need all those application shortcuts on your desktop. Also, lot of people use their desktop as a temp area to store documents. You should keep your desktop clean. Once you delete all those shortcuts from your desktop, learn to use keyboard shortcuts to launch applications. Setup a simple wallpaper image on your desktop that motivates you.
  13. Use password manager. You might have created yourself an account on lot of websites. Don’t give the same username and password on all those websites. Create unique strong password for every website, and use password manager software (this one works on Windows, Linux and Mac) to organize all those online account informations.
  14. Use single calendar. Having multiple calendars to schedule all your appointments can get very confusing and cause all kinds of issues. Use only one calendar to schedule your appointments.
  15. Disconnect from digital world one day a week. You really don’t need to be connected to digital world all the times. Saturday is a good day to disconnect from the digital world and spend time with nature, friends and family. Don’t check your emails, browse the internet, watch TV, etc, at least one day in a week. This will definitely make a huge difference in the quality of your life. Try it and see the results yourself.
  16. Delete your old documents. Do a massive purge of all your digital items. Do you really need all those documents and software from the project that you worked on several years ago? Probably not. If you have not used a document in the last six months, just delete it from your system. If you have hard time deleting an old document, and you are afriad that you might need it in the future, at least backup all those documents to an external hard drive, or DVD, and delete it from your system. If you download any software from the internet, delete the original download file after you install the software. The download file are huge, and it takes up unnecessary space on your hard disk. If you need it later, you can always download it from the internet again.
  17. Schedule purging routine. Schedule a digital purging routine (atleast once every 6 months) in your calendar to clean up all your old digital items from your system.
  18. Don’t organize file and folders. Organizing your digital documents in multiple folder structures is a waste of time and is not really required. Install google desktop on your laptop, which will quickly search for the documents you are looking for, even faster than your custom organized folders. Probably you can create couple of high level folders under your home directory, and dump all your files into those folders without creating multiple sub directories. When you want to retrieve a document from those foldres, use google desktop to locate it, and open it.
  19. Keep your email inbox clean. Your email inbox is not the place to store all read emails. Once you’ve read the email, archive it immediately. When you archive it, the email is still there, but it is stored in the archive folder. If your email software doesn’t have the archive functionality, create a folder called ‘archive’ and move all the read emails into it. Your email inbox should contain only unread new emails.
  20. Batch process your digital chores. You don’t go for grocery shopping anytime you think of buying a single item. You combine several items and try to do your groceries once a week. Use the same concept for all your digital chores. Set aside 1 hour every week to do all your digital chores. This might include paying your bills online, uploading pictures and videos, emailing your friends, backing up your laptop, etc.

What is your favorite tip to simplify your digital life? leave a comment and let us know.


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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Andrew June 27, 2011 at 2:47 am

You know, it’s a greatest article I have ever learnt on this blog because it improved my life greatly. Thank you.

2 Dan Hassan June 27, 2011 at 3:28 am

It’s a refreshing to be reminded to disconnect from the digital world.

Keep up the good work.

3 Pushpraj June 27, 2011 at 3:38 am

Thanks for posting.
Bookmarked…:)

4 ronik June 27, 2011 at 4:56 am

Thanks Thanks

5 smag June 27, 2011 at 6:24 am

Thanks for the advices and nice post.

6 Thomas June 27, 2011 at 6:28 am

Thanks for the article.

I’m not convinced about not to organize my files in folders but rather have a huge list of all of my files. I can’t imagine to bunch up my images with the files for my PhD thesis and articles and documentations about LaTeX.

Some aspects sound hard to realize but I’ll give them a try ;b

7 Michéal June 27, 2011 at 6:33 am

Simple common sense brilliantly presented. If only all articles were as well written.
Many thanks!

8 Márcio Mendonça June 27, 2011 at 7:21 am

HI!!!

As usual, nice tips!!

Thanks!

9 Agasthi K June 27, 2011 at 7:28 am

This is simply too good.

However, coming from a geek, this is surprising :P

10 Bryan June 27, 2011 at 8:33 am

Thank you Ramesh, excellent tips for our every day digital and busy life.

11 Guru Prasad June 27, 2011 at 10:09 am

to disconnect from the digital world for a day, is and will always be my favorite. I tried this many times, almost succeeded, but not completely. I admire your thinking of coming up with some out-of-the box articles like this one. Enjoyed a lot reading them. Keep continuing your great work.

12 Karthik June 27, 2011 at 12:52 pm

Nice blog

13 captaink June 27, 2011 at 1:20 pm

I might offer one modification. I use 3 email addresses. 1 for personal, 1 for work, and 1 for when you need to create an account that you fear might get spammed. Many sites force you to enter an email to create an account. Spam filters sometimes work, so you could gamble and give them your personal email… but you could just use your spam email to create the account. Then they’ll send you a confirmation email which would be the only time to check your account. Then, “click on the link” to activate the new account. Then never check it again until you create some other account. If someone spams this spam-account, you don’t care.

14 Vonskippy June 27, 2011 at 4:29 pm

The overhead of Google Desktop is way too high. I’d rather take 5 seconds and file it away into a correct folder then rely on a resource hog like GD.

15 icecream June 27, 2011 at 7:44 pm

I don’t agree with NO.18, I think people should organize file and folds fine. Because of making thing better.

16 Leslie Satenstein June 27, 2011 at 8:03 pm

I have three email addresses. 1 for personal, 2nd for business and third, for those websites that will end-up sending me reams of unwanted promotions.
The 3rd website keeps the span down.

17 Dhanushka June 28, 2011 at 12:53 am

Oh again this is a great article. Although most of the above tips are good, I think Disconnect from digital life once a week is great. Thanks a lot.

18 Jidifi June 29, 2011 at 2:19 pm

When organizing your files in folders,
1) you may build and use aliases to change directory very quickly. And it is very simple to set in your /home/user/.bash_aliases (or the corresponding directory in your linux distribution).
2) It is much more easy to search a file in 10 folders of 10 files each than in only one folder of 100 files.

19 Bilal Bhat July 5, 2011 at 12:05 am

Hats off, great job, nice tips & agree with the author on every single point.

Thanks for such a great article.

20 Mr. Black July 12, 2011 at 7:31 am

Thanks for your great advice. Definitely, your tips are prevent me from the alcohol.(Social N/w Site) ;) .

21 Anant July 14, 2011 at 10:41 am

Use this for temporary email addresses and getting around spam.

22 P.Sampath Kumar July 19, 2011 at 1:19 am

I shall implement many of your sugestion and try to pass this artcle my known friends
to do the same

thanking you

23 Hamilton Jimenez August 4, 2011 at 12:24 pm

Very healthfull list, thanks a lot.

24 senthil September 23, 2011 at 3:21 am

Thanks Ramesh!! Its refreshing!! keep rocking :-) )

25 qajaq October 31, 2011 at 11:06 am

I use numerous e-mail accounts and I use the Mozilla Thunderbird e-mail client, which allows me simply to check in one place and see if I have any new messages on any of those accounts. Not a problem; no more time used than if I had but two or three accounts; and I can keep messages from close friends, from membership sites, from e-commerce correspondents, and from the several volunteer organization e-mail accounts all separate — easy to find the one I want, when I want it.

26 Todd November 23, 2011 at 12:30 am

Hmm… this is going to be interesting. I shall try to do what I can, however, having an internet based business that is still small and requires a lot of time being put in, disconnecting from the internet is a hard thing to do, However I will give it a go.

Everything else is definitely an interesting effort that I shall also try. :D

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