Most people have a collection of sites that they like to check every few days. Unfortunately, checking a few sites can turn into several hours of pointless surfing without any real benefit. Here are some strategies that will let you maximize your productivity while using the web to stay up to date.
- Set aside time to visit your favorite sites. If you don’t create space for it, you’ll end up opening your browser everytime you are faced with a task that you want to procrastinate on. Avoid this by setting up a specific time. This can be in the morning before going to work, at lunch time, in the evening. It doesn’t matter when it is, but set up a time and get into a schedule.
- Set a time limit for browsing. By giving yourself a resonable time limit, you’ll keep yourself focused on things that are really important to you instead of following every random tangent hyperlink.
- Use a tabbed browser. If you are reading an article and see a link you want to open, use another tab. That way you can finish reading the current article before moving on. You can open multiple pages in this manner without losing your place on the current page. Usually you can get the option to open a site in another tab by right clicking on the hyperlink.
- Use bookmarks. I have a list of 4 or 5 sites that I check regularly. By putting these all into a single bookmark folder, I’m able to open them all in tabs with a single click using Firefox or Safari. This way they all load and I can click through skimming each one without loading each one individually.
- Use a bookmarking service. Services like del.icio.us allow you to bookmark interesting sites using tags. A tag is a single word identifier and you can attach multiple ones to each page you book mark. You can then search through your bookmarks looking for specific tags or combinations of tags. When you know that you can retrieve something later, it takes some of urgency away from reading it right now. When you know that it will be categorized with other similiar sites that you’ve found, it makes it even easier to wait to review–you know you can concentrate exclusively on the subject when you have time to invest in it.
- Use email services. I enjoy Dilbert, but I don’t find it very productive to visit the site everyday. Instead, I signed up for the daily email. Each day when I check my email, I have a cartoon in my inbox. You can also use email services to notify you of news events or new sites on the web. Google Alerts offers this service.
- Use RSS readers. RSS readers allow you to subscribe to a website feed. They show you all the sites you’ve subscribed to and indicate which ones you’ve read and which ones you have yet to read. By putting the content of all the sites you are interested in in one place, you can easily scan the headlines looking for things of interest.Originally published October 20, 2005.