5 Steps to Minimalist Web Surfing

It’s hard to live without the internet if you’re a student. Amongst many things, you probably need it for checking email, receiving updates from societies, arranging meetings with course-mates, keeping in touch with old friends, Skyping your family, getting in touch with your professors, checking out the library catalogue and of course, for research (maybe I should have put that one first).

If you’re planning on living a more minimalist lifestyle, consider letting that attitude flow into your web experience. Here’s how.

1. Firefox Add-ons. Perhaps it is a little paradoxical to claim that adding things on can help you become more minimal but if you use Gmail and Firefox, you will love an add-on called Greasemonkey which allows you to run scripts within Firefox. All you have to do is install it so that you can run little scripts such as HelvetiMail, which gets rid of all the words and boxes that just clutter up your inbox, as well as pasting a very minimal white theme on top.

2. Adblocker. This is also a Firefox add-on but it is available in Chrome (known as Adthwart) and it so important that it gets its own step. Adblockers get rid of all the flashy ads that can clutter up web pages. As much as I want to support the sites that I use, I would never click on the ads anyway. I mostly ignore them, but I can’t resist how clean and simple pages look without ads.

3. Google Reader – If you read a lot of blogs, a great way to get them all in one place is to use Google Reader with the Greasemonkey script, Helvetireader. As minimal as Google interfaces tend to be, the Helveti guys make it even more simple. Also, having all of your RSS feeds go into one place saves time and makes keeping up with blog posts easier and more streamlined.

4. Time tracking. These last two steps might help if you want to minimalise the number of hours you surf the interweb. If you count them, you may be more inclined to reduce them. Extensions such as Meetimer or Time Tracker can help you see how much time you are spending and there are even tools that you can use to block particular websites after you have spent a pre-allocated amount of time on them.

5. Cut social networking. For me, social networking takes up a very large proportion of my web activity, and it is probably the most wasteful as well. Reducing the number of hours I spend on sites like Facebook and Twitter definitely counts towards a minimalist experience.

Other little things I like to do include keeping my inbox empty (see screenshot), cutting down the number of blogs I follow to a few high quality ones and if I’m really desperate, disconnecting once in a while.

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