Quite some time ago, I wrote a post about simplifying my Internet life. I had an idea about simplifying it without sacrificing my major needs from it. In this post, I will be sharing about what steps I took to do so – to reduce the mindless distraction and increase the beneficial retention.
My first target was to create a new Google account and almost discard (but not delete) the old one. The reason for this is simple – the old one had become too disorganised and complicated. I did not like the fact that I had years of disorganised content lying around in my Google account – which would take days to reorganise. So, I decided ‘Screw it’ and created a new one. Nowadays, I use this account solely for Google related stuff – which is turning out to be quite rare. Sure, the old one is still there in case I ever need to refer it sometime in the future, but I am planning a couple of years from now I will delete it when I find that I have reached a point where I do not use it anymore. For emergency purposes, I have even created an Archive of all my Google Data, including my email, using Google Takeout.
I am also using this new Google Account for my Android smartphone – because the old one had become too cluttered with millions of apps and cleaning up that clutter was gonna take a whole lot of time.
(On a sidenote, the email is exported as .mbox file that you can export to any popular email client so that a copy of your old email remains on your computer for easy reference. I am on Linux and use Sylpheed for this purpose. I tried with Mozilla Thunderbird, but for some wierd reason it did not work)
I found that Gmail’s biggest advantages was also Gmail’s biggest disadvantage – it is too powerful. Trust me – I am a long time Gmail user and I know some of the deep Ins and Outs of Gmail. Infact, its newer brother Google Inbox is even more functional. But I realized, me being a sort of computer and internet junkie, that all this was distracting me. I had a lot of power, thanks to Google, but I was so busy making Labels, organising email etc. that I was wasting quite some time (I will be honest though, that is one of the reasons Google made Google Inbox – it looks beautiful and is insanely user friendly) in the process. I know, I am at fault here, but this is something I just felt.
Plus, there is the issue of privacy as well. Till now, I did not use my email for any super important or private stuff – just the regulars – tickets, email subscriptions, blog subscriptions and so on. But since very recently I have started to use my email for some really sensitive stuff. And I am quite an internet privacy buff – and I do not like that Google can read my email content or Governments can read my email content. Everytime I wrote an email in Gmail, the stuff was on my mind (albeit way back in the background) and I was always careful not to use trigger words.
So, I decided to go with ProtonMail. It is really simple, just pure email and has double passwords with the second one for encrytion purposes. I am relishing the simplicity. It is helping me stay focussed on just my emails. And I can read and write whatever I want to without the fear of being monitored all the time. Matter of fact, I am seriously considering paying for a Plus subscription once I pass out from college and have a job in hand.
Previously I had subscribed to many many email subscriptions and was on many social networking websites. My main motive was to stay up to date (as much as I do not like it because of all the negative news everywhere 24×7).
But I found that it was doing more harm than good – eating up a lot of my daily time without giving me the kind of news that really mattered to me. Plus, arranging them for future reference in Gmail was a pain in the ass.
Suddenly, everything became so convenient. Reddit’s tagline is “Frontpage of the Internet” and rightfully so. From worthwhile daily content on anything (they say there is a subreddit for everything – yes, even porn 😉 ) to insightful discussions (in the comments) on that stuff – it is literally gold for people like me – who need to have an idea of the best in my fields while glancing on new stuff. The Reddit Frontpage is sort of a human achievement.
(And yes, if you are asking why not follow a newspaper or news website – it is because a newspaper or news website is subject to a lot of influence and bias which affects the fairness of the news. All content on Reddit is uploaded by its users and that gives a mostly fair taking of news and happenings. If you don’t get it, then just go there and you will understand what I am saying.)
Reddit combined with Slide and all my news is packaged and sorted for me – just the way I like it. No need for multiple email subscriptions that make information clumsy – now the Reddit FrontPage does it all. (And yes, being a command line guy, sometimes I also use a nifty little tool called Reddit Terminal Viewer on my Linux laptop – although mostly I browse Reddit on my phone)
Email subscriptions had become too cumbersome. Plus, I did not really have a lot of time in the day to read through tons of subscriptions.
So, I turned to Podcasts.
Our hostel is quite afar from our classrooms and walking there (or even just walking around the campus) takes quite some time. I consider that time to be ‘underutilised’ because as I told in a previous blog post, I cannot tolerate not thinking or engaging my brain in some activity at a time. To take care of this, I had subscribed to a Gaana+ subscription (think of it as the Spotify of India) – but it was turning out to be boring and cumbersome. New songs did not come up daily and listening to the same old songs got me bored really quick. So I left it (although I have to admit – it is a good service for music junkies – totally worth your Rs 100 per month).
Podcasts turned out to be the perfect solution. I have subscribed to podcasts in all my favourite topics and its a delight listening to them in my free time. I have even installed gPodder on my Linux laptop where I subscribe to YouTube Podcasts (Yes, subscribing to YouTube channels via RSS for offline listening is possible and quite easy).
On my phone, I use the amazing and super powerful (read super customizable) Podcast app – Podcast Republic.
Evernote and Tasks
I use Evernote for all my notes and ideas. I have a Plus subscription. I tried OneNote but did not like its rigid note management and subpar web clipping tool. Evernote is what I find better to use because it helps me quickly organise a ton of notes and stuff with tags and notebooks – and (un)surprisingly I have been able to find the exact stuff I wanted everytime I searched for it. Plus, I read quite a few tutorial websites and do Online Courses, so it is good for quickly clipping webpages into notes and organise them as any other regular note. And in India, the pricing point for Plus is just perfect for a college student like me (which I took ofcourse, after 2 to 3 months of Free account usage and a third way throught the subscription I already feel the subscription has paid off). I use Nixnote on my Linux laptop and the official Evernote client in a Windows VM (just in case I ever might need it) and they are going well so far.
(Before you say it, I tried using Google Keep, Google Drive and OneNote – they did not fit my usage pattern).
However, Evernote has a very basic Tasks management system and that pissed me off for a long time. So, I tried searching for a free and powerful task management system for my Android Phone – the Stock (or Google) calendar app and Task app were not cutting it. And then Istumbled upon this beautiful, super customizable and open source (YES!) Task app simply name Tasks (their official Github page).
I have tried many many ToDo apps in the past but nothing comes even close to the versatility and customizability of Tasks. Even the free version is so powerful and so customizable that I could fill out 10 pages describing everything. So maybe I will write about it some other day. But trust me – you should definitely use it atleast once – I don’t think you will regret it.
now I feel like my Internet life has become much more simpler and organised. The right services and apps and I can get back to using the Internet without it becoming a distraction or me missing the action. It took some time to adjust and adapt, but now my Internet productivity is at a record high.