Note: This article is a continuation of Improve Your Life Using the Internet, Pt. 1.
Apparently when I ended the last article with a promise to continue last week, I really meant this week.
Now, on with the tips:
3. Obtain and use web-based e-mail for on-the-go access.
For many net-savvy people, this is a no-brainer. I also know many hardcore geeks that spurn web-based mail technology, and prefer to use the likes of mutt, pine, and the “newer” readers such as Mozilla Thunderbird. My suggestion is not that you abandon your traditional, familiar means of communcation. However, let’s say you’re in an unfamiliar location, without a laptop, and wish to check your mail? Unless you have a Treo, you can’t remotely connect to your computer; sometimes all you have is Internet Explorer in an internet cafe. Enter webmail.
Gmail and Mail2Web are the two web-based e-mail servers I use. Gmail is a wonderful repository for Amazon receipts, random bits of web registrivia, and critical notes to self that need to be accessible on the road. Searching is incredibly efficient and fast—much more so than an IMAP client crawling through thousands of e-mails sitting in a folder. I’d recommend that everyone establish a Gmail account and use it as a remote information repository.
Ready access to e-mail in unfamiliar or remote locations can be a life-saver, especially when you’re forced to play by someone else’s technology rules.
4. Limit your time online.
Limiting time online is an odd tip coming from a blogger, Flickr-addict, and general geek who spends most of his waking time online. The Internet is vast. You could spend every waking minute reading or downloading something online and there would still be more. New content is being created every day. In order to maintain any productivity whatsoever, you must limit your browsing to focused, specific tasks. This is limiting one’s “online time”.
Always-on broadband does not mean you should spend your day refreshing Slashdot, or checking your inbox, web stats, etc. These are examples of information addiction. When you come across an interesting web site, bookmark it (see tip #8). Visit Google with a clear idea of what you want to find. Set mini-goals for your time online, and evaluate them when you’ve finished. It’s hard, but all that information won’t help you a bit unless you spend time using it.
Finally, just break away. I shouldn’t need to say this. The Internet is wonderful, and I love technology—yet, I need to get away from time to time. Living entirely online can sometimes blind you to new and interesting possibilities on the ‘net. The Internet is an enabler: use it to improve your life, rather than enslave it!
I will continue this series as soon as I have time. In the meantime—blog on, fellow evangelists!