Managing Your Time Online with Automation and Filters

 •  Filed under Tools, Internet, Posts

Left unchecked, you could easily waste away your time online. Posting, bookmarking, pinning, reading, uploading, downloading, torrenting and streaming. We've entered into an era of the Internet where there's growing demand for you to be connected to anything and everything. If it's not managed properly you could easily get sucked into an almost endless zombie state of clicking, scrolling and swiping. It's something that I've grown more aware of over the years, but with kids in the house, you suddenly become more aware of how much time you spend being connected. I don't want my kids to remember their parents as "those two with their heads creaking into their phones".

With this in mind, I've started being a little bit more selective of how I manage my time being connected. This doesn't necessarily mean that I only class the time I'm on the Internet, this can include any form contact with my laptop and smartphone. Cutting back on the this time is the key, but how do we do this?

In the last couple of weeks I've made a few changes to the apps I'm using and how I use them, and I've found that there's two key places where you can improve severing that attachment to technology. Automation and filtering.


Automation is the ability to take a number of manual steps and make them run on their own without any human intervention. Sounds a bit daunting to start with, but there are in fact a number of great services that can make detaching from technology easier.

I've used IFTTT for the last couple of years to automate a few things between different services I use. I wouldn't call myself a power user, but it's easy to set up recipes means that you can schedule all manner of action between the different channels you might use.

I've only just started using Zapier in the last couple of weeks. IFTTT is great but I've heard good reviews about Zapier as well. My first impressions of it are good, and while they don't cover all the same channels that IFTTT does, they do have a vast catalog of services that you can hook into.

Using tools like this can handle the mundane tasks for you, like backing up your photographs to Dropbox or builing lists on Twitter for an event you're attending. Each step might only take a few seconds to do, but given that you'll probably end up repeating these steps time and time again, it's worth looking at tools like IFTTT and Zapier to handle them for you.


Filtering is where we want to pick out the signals from the noise. What's the important stuff? It's something I haven't used much in the past, but I've finding it to be more and more useful to limit my time online.

Perhaps the first place you might have came across filtering is on a number of Twitter clients. Tweetbot and Echofon allow you to mute keywords in your stream. This comes in handy when you don't want to see tweets about a particular topic. I recently muted keywords for the Apple Watch event a couple of weeks ago and recently also blocked tweets from the SXSW event. Both topics weren not in my interests and so to stop my timeline being polluted with links to these I muted them in Echofon.

The last place I've seen filtering avaialble but haven't used yet is in the RSS reader application, Feedbin. For each of the RSS feeds you have, Feedbin gives you the option to mute a feed. I haven't used this yet but knowing this feature is here means that I'm abit more open to subscribing to other RSS feeds. I can mute feeds that are perhaps covering a specific topic over a number of days or weeks and if it's something I'm not interested in, I can mute for that period of time.

This is just a couple of ways in which I manage the daily onslaught of information. I would be interested to hear of other suggestions that you use to manage and reduce your time being connected to the digital world.