Organizing Your Digital Life (Part 1)

Random Observation/Comment #498: We have a lot of digital clutter in our lives. Streamline it to let technology work for you.

organized chip

In order to be productive, you need a system of tools that help you get through your daily tasks without distracting you too much.  Here’s what I use and how I organize my digital world:

Email

Available Purposes: All things electronic communications from newsletters to important career emails to casual catching up conversations.

Focused Purpose: Direct communications for calendar invites and individual conversations. Think texts, but much longer. I like to keep an Inbox(0) and make these items actionable tasks. Currently trying out Google Inbox, which makes everything more task/category focused.

Recommendations: Google Inbox, Gmail

Tips: 

  • Unsubscribe to newsletters, promotions, and deals. There’s plenty of other places to get the latest news for this and these items are rarely actionable. If you want to spend less time on reading through these, either unsubscribe or create a filter to throw them into a separate folder/label for occassional glancing.  There’s also a service called Unroll.me that lets you do a mass unsubscribe.
  • Create labels. I use labels just to easily filter through things. Labels can be for projects or categories of emails or even circles.
    • I use: Purchases, events, travel, catching up, career, bills, startup, trading, info
  • Create filters. These are your best friends and helps you stay organized.
    • Red flags. Remember not to filter out potential red flags for your passwords being changed.
    • Pre-screen emails. I use filters in Gmail to throw emails with certain attributes directly into the folders. This can be based on senders or topics.
    • Star items. I like to star items coming from special people. I’ll probably read it, but it’s good to know
  • Keep separate email addresses for different purposes. Using one email for everything is not a good idea in my mind. I tend to separate experimental sites with my most common ones.
  • Archive. The beauty of archive is that you can still search for it. If you want true inbox(0), you need to move completed items out of the way.
  • Use IFTTT recipes to move items to a real to-do list app.  IFTTT is amazing and can create API recipes that allow you to control your connectivity flows. I throw starred items into Google Keep todo lists. For IOS.

 

Social Media

Available Purposes: Communications/Marketing from different groups/pages/companies, recommended posts from friends, and random friends informing the world about something they’re doing. Also lots of random selfie photos and an uptick of auto-play videos.

Focused Purpose: Communication with friends and outlets to post information to them. I’m more of a power user that likes to create and share content (as well as make people very hungry).

Recommendations: FB, Twitter, Tumblr, Yelp, G+ (or any of the million other ones)

Tips:

  •  If you’re posting content, post to all at once. If you’re going to tell everyone anyway, might as well connect your FB to your Twitter to your Instagram to your Tumblr to your Pinterest to your Yelp to your etc etc. This will probably save you some time and maximize your recognition (if you’re into that stuff). Hootsuite is a good choice for this, but IFTTT also works.
  • Create lists in Twitter. I think Twitter is extremely powerful for getting latest news information. There are plenty of great lists to follow that give you all the latest on technology, start-ups, gadgets, science, fashion, etc.
  • Unfollow/unfriend/dislike pages as needed. If you feel like your newsfeed or regular feed is getting spammy – just disconnect yourself.
  • Limit the number of general pages you like. Advertisments are very smart and tailored through all of your activity. If you want to stay somewhat off the grid, try not to connect all of these accounts.
  • Like/Retweet/Repost/Share. I personally just like to do this because I want others to learn what I’ve filtered from the internet. It’s interesting how these things go viral.
  • Build your brand. I tend to use FB for more personal updates and LinkedIn/Twitter for more business related shares. For some reason, I find the distinction to be liberating and fundamentally necessary.
  • Be careful. Once it’s out there, it’s out there forever. If you have to ask yourself if you need to post something, the answer is most definitely “No.”
  • Similar to Unwinding, try not to get sucked into it. Don’t spend a day getting absorbed into this stuff. I’m sure you have better things to do that take a longer amount of time to complete.

 

News

Available Purposes: Stay up-to-date with the latest breaking stories and headlines.

Focused Purposes: Be notified of major events, but do your own digging afterwards. If a story is good, you should read multiple opinions about it.

Recommendations: Google News, NYT Now,  Twitter lists

Tips:

  • Use CNN or NYTimes. I like paid quality writers. They’re paid for a reason and don’t summarize information from other sources just to get views for advertisements. If I’m digging deeper into opinions that matter, I don’t want it second hand after it’s been massaged and thrown around through the media. I want it from the source.
  • If you’re into tech, read TechCrunch. Everyone else in tech does. It’s a good idea.
  • Filter through the crap. Don’t be fooled by catchy headlines.
  • Learn to read quickly. Skimming is great, but can be dangerous. I absorb ideas, themes, and tones much more than specific words before sitting down and actually reading reading it.
  • Create your own opinions. I recommend not following blindly to what news sources say. If something is controversial (as most big news headlines are), get all the information before giving an opinion about it.

 

Unwind

Available Purposes: This includes casual reading, funny material, youtube videos, interesting random stuff, and whatever else the internet brings you. Pop your pill of instant gratification and feel connected to the interwebz.

Focused Purpose: Stimulate your brain intellectually or specifically to topics you’re interested in. If you have free time and already scoured through your emails, to-do lists, and social networks, look up something cool. Limit this to 15-30 minute activities.

Recommendations: Crossy Roads, Reddit, Shortyz CrosswordsLumosity, Elevate

Tips:

  • Personalize your Reddit front page. Follow proper subreddits to make sure  you see what’s on the darker parts of the web. Memes are born every day and they’re hilarious. I just love the comments and exchange of witty quips through this whole community.
  • Watch a video from your subscriptions. I’m a big fan of VSauce (1,2,3), SmarterEveryDay, and Table tennis videos
  • Time yourself with unwinding. If you’re unwinding on your phone for longer than 30 minutes, you’re not actually doing anything else. If you really have an hour, maybe you should use the full amount of time wisely on a larger project. Unwinding should be in moderation or else you go into long bouts of instant gratification and learning.
  • Control the urges. It’s sometimes so much easier to just read these sources of knowledge for hours.  If you’re lucky, you’re learning useful things that will apply in conversations or help you do a crossword. if you’re unlucky, you’ve memorized 10 videos of cats doing cute things.
  • Limit the sources. I prefer reddit, but others can dive into Pinterest or OhMyGif!  It’s all gravy, but control those urges to prolong this into something that sucks up all your time.
  • Do a brain workout. Lumosity or Elevate work fairly well.
  • Play a video game. To unwind, I think playing a video game where you activate your senses and get engaged in an activity for puzzles is more rewarding and useful than looking at pictures of cute kittens. That’s just me though. Yay Crossy Roads!
  • Multi-task unwinding with working out. These are both mindless activities so you can actually do them together. Get a standing bike and do a bike ride while watching a video. You don’t need to be completely concentrated on all these things.

 

Tasking/Scheduling

Available Purposes: The core of productivity is letting the technology and tools help you. Project managing your life a little bit with some structure helps you get things done and stay on top of your priorities.

Focused Purpose: To-do lists and collaboration tools used to keep all your things organized.

Recommendations: IFTTT, Google Calendar, Google Keep, Trello, Wunderlist, Google Tasks

Tips:

  • Use a System that Works for you. Evernote, Google Tasks + Google Calendar, Google Keep, iOS notes, sending yourself email reminders, OneNote, Wunderlist, Trello, Google Inbox, etc. Everyone has something they like to use to take notes and remind themselves of ideas. I personally use Google Keep and Google Calendar as the core reminder systems for tasks.
  • Review these lists weekly. To give myself a pat on the back or slap on the wrist, I like to look at the number of tasks I’ve completed. It’s reflections on what I’ve done and what I need to do next to reach my goals. Groom that backlog for priorities.
  • Refine your system. Sometimes there are more efficient systems of getting organized out there. It doesn’t hurt to keep an open mind and branch out.

 

Writing

(By Special Request because everyone’s curious what system I use to consistently publish blogposts)

Focused Purpose: Getting your ideas and thoughts somewhere for blog entries or to reflect on weekly goals.

Recommendations: Google Keep, WordPress, MSWord, Google Docs, Day One

Tips:

  • Take notes. Write those random ideas and showerthoughts down when you’re inspired. In Google Keep, I color code notes that specifically relate to potential blog posts.
  • Find your comfort zone with writing. When are you most inspired to write? I do it during my commute and whenever I have 30 minutes.
  • Expand your writing to mobile. I’ve learned to type faster with my mobile device so I’m not just restricted to a laptop at home (like I used to be). I definitely love swiftkey for this reason. I actually do 80% of my writing on my phone and use the laptop to format, edit, and do photos.
  • Stay on topic. It’s easy to start 8 blogposts in one day, but starting projects doesn’t mean you’ll finish them. Sometimes you just need to finish one before you start another.
  • Give yourself a deadline. I try to post at least once a week. If I finish early, I stretch the goal to writing 2 entries a week, which gives myself leeway for the next week in case things get busy. In fact, I am right now 3 weeks ahead of schedule.

This first part of Organizing my Digital Life looked at the content and tasks. Part 2 will focus more on the toolbox of specific applications in my laptop and mobile worlds to help me get things done.

~See Lemons Digitally Organized

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