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5 Ways to Stay Safe and Increase Your Privacy on the Internet

5 Ways to Stay Safe and Increase Your Privacy on the Internet

Internet freedom is a concept that many people take for granted. It feels so commonplace that many forget how easy it is for that freedom to result in a loss of privacy or worse. As the internet becomes even more entangled with everyday life, it becomes more and more important to be wary of how you are protecting yourself and your information online. It is not enough to trust websites, browsers, and internet service providers to do it for you. In fact, you should not trust them because their default privacy settings are lacking to say the least. As an empowered internet user, it is your responsibility to take as much control of your privacy as you can. Here are five ways to do just that:

  1. Change Your Browser Settings

Every browser has configuration settings for privacy and security. Head to browser settings and make the following changes to improve your security: Set your browser settings to avoid accepting ‘cookies’ from sites you have not visited before. It is generally safe to accept cookies from sites you visit, but you want the option to reject them in the even you click on a bad link. Next, turn on the settings that clear cookies when you end your session or close the window. If you are looking for a plug-in with maximum security, check out the HTTPS Everywhere plug-in created by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. It provides encryption between your computer and the server you are connecting to. This means it keeps your browsing as close to private as possible.

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  1. Change Your Social Media Settings

Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all have privacy settings that are updated regularly for both the desktop site and the mobile app. If you have not looked at your settings in the last year, now is a good time to do so. Head the Privacy Settings section on each of your social media profiles. Decide how much information you want visible to strangers, and update the settings to match your wishes. Facebook’s settings can be more difficult to navigate. Be sure to use the option to view your profile as a stranger to make sure you got everything right. Be mindful that blocking strangers from seeing your data does not protect your privacy completely. Read through your privacy agreements so you know what social media providers share with your consent. Then, tailor what you post online to match what you are comfortable with them having and sharing with other organizations.

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  1. Add Two-Factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication can mean the difference between safe data and complete and total destruction. Add it to your primary email addresses and to any other application that offers this service. It might not always be convenient, but it will keep your accounts safe. At the very least, you will be the first to know if someone is hacking your account. If two-factor identification does not work for you, create strong passwords and change them regularly. Use a secure password manager to keep track of all your passwords in one place and keep your accounts secure. For added security, you should be using a VPN to mask your IP address, which means intruders won’t be able to locate you.  Used with two-factor authentication, this strategy can dramatically increase your online security.

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  1. Install Software Protection

Spyware and malware are two huge threats to internet security. You should not be online unless you have some type of protection from these software threats. Install reputable anti-spyware products on both your computers and your mobile devices. You can choose from free open-source products or paid subscriptions. Choose the product that best suit your needs and provides the features you need. If you have a lot of sensitive information or participate in certain activities, be sure to choose protection tailored to your needs. Help your anti-virus and anti-spyware products help you by practicing safe surfing. Do not click on strange pop-up windows. Steer clear of weird links. Close windows that ask unexpected questions. Finally, be sure that you are downloading reputable applications from reputable sources.

  1. Keep Your Software Up to Date

Software updates present themselves at the least convenient times. But updating your system in a timely manner helps protects your computer against threats. Many updates come with fixes to vulnerabilities in your software found by the software provider or by less savory characters. These vulnerabilities are a problem because criminals can take advantage of any vulnerabilities present and use them as a way into your computer and your data. Software updates address these changes and keep your information protected. Prevent attackers from exploiting vulnerabilities by keeping your software updated. There is no way to fully protect yourself from having your information unwittingly stolen by criminals or sold to advertisers or third parties. But using these five fixes and being aware of what information you provide to whom can go a long way towards protecting yourself and your private information.

Featured photo credit: Police Hub Scotland via policyhubscotland.co.uk

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Published on October 16, 2020

13 Productive Things to Do on a Sunday

13 Productive Things to Do on a Sunday

Sunday’s are amazing days. For most of us, Sunday’s are a day of rest — a chance to relax, spend time with our family and friends and step away from work. Yet, for many people, Sunday’s can be a day of gloom. The thought of having to go back to work the next day and rejoin the hustle and bustle of everyday working life creates a dark cloud over a day that should be a joy.

With the right approach, though, Sunday’s can be days of rejuvenation—a chance to recharge our batteries—and to set ourselves up for a fantastic week. It is just a matter of the way you look at Sundays.

Sunday’s give me a chance to take stock of how my week has gone and decide what I want to achieve the following week. Each Sunday allows me to step back from the everyday grind and to measure my progress against the plan I had for the week and to reset that plan to make the next week even better.

Here are 13 ways you can turn Sunday’s into amazingly productive days:

1. Wake up at Your Normal Time

I grew up thinking Sunday’s were a great day to ‘catch-up on my sleep’. The problem here is by over-sleeping on a Sunday, you often find it difficult to get to sleep Sunday night and that begins the cycle of sleep debt you want to avoid.[1]

Waking up at your normal time maintains regular sleep patterns and this helps to make sure your sleep schedule is consistent throughout the week. When you are in a perpetual sleep debt all week, your productivity will sink. Ensuring you have a good night sleep every night, keeps you in a highly productive state.

2. Start the Day With “Me-Time”

“Me-time” is time you give to yourself.[2] It’s time you can spend doing all the things you love doing without the fear of being interrupted. That could be exercise, reading, going for a long walk or meditation.

Before Google and smartphones, people in the U.K. used to wake up on a Sunday morning, take a short walk to the local newsagent to buy the Sunday papers. The Sunday papers had all sort of supplements on books, lifestyle, gardening and fashion.

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You would get home, settle into your favourite armchair and spend an hour or two reading through all these supplements. For me, I would put on some relaxing music and just relax with a nice cup of tea. It was a wonderful way to spend Sunday morning. No stress, no pressure, just me and the Sunday papers.

Decide what you want to do with your Sunday morning, make sure it is focused on you and start this week. You will thank yourself for it.

3. Do Some Exercise

Now, this does not mean you go out and do a 10-mile run or spend one or two hours in the gym. What this means is to get outside and move.

Our lifestyles today have taken away a lot of natural movement. This has become particularly prominent this year with many of us having to work from home. Those walks to the bus stop, train station and the office have gone. Now we get up, move from one room to another, sit down and start work.

Sunday’s give you a chance to move. Take that opportunity. Get yourself outside for an hour or two. Enjoy nature. Go with your family or friends and just have a relaxing hour or two in nature. This is possibly one of the best ways to reduce stress, get some healthy exercise and set yourself up for a wonderful week.

4. Plan the Day

Not having a plan for the day will leave you at the mercy of outside events. Instead, decide on Saturday evening what you will do the next day. Make sure you wake up at your normal time, indulge in your favourite morning drink and start your day.

Having no plan for the day, will likely result in you waking up late, making it difficult to get a good night’s sleep the next evening and you will waste the opportunity to make the day count.

Your plan does not have to be too detailed. Something similar to:

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  • Wake up and make coffee
  • Put on some great music
  • Sit down and enjoy coffee
  • Take a 2-hour walk
  • Read for an hour or two
  • Spend some time with the kids

Just make sure you have a rough plan for the day, but keep things as flexible as possible.

5. Watch a Sports Game

This is a great way to get yourself away from thinking about work and your troubles. I’m a big rugby and motorsport fan and even in these difficult pandemic times, there are plenty of sports events I can watch on YouTube.

Whatever sport you enjoy, take some time on Sunday to watch a game. Just getting into the game, enjoying the skills on show and marvelling at the professionalism removes you from your everyday world for a while. It’s a great way to give your brain some much-needed relaxation and provides a wonderful distraction from your everyday normal life.

6. Make Sure You Do Something Different

Doing the same things day after day will eventually turn every day into a grind. You want to be looking forward to your Sunday’s. Plan to go out for a drive in the countryside, or a walk in an unfamiliar park, or go to the cinema or an outside concert.

Do anything that breaks up your routine. Like watching a sports game, it takes you away from the normal everyday life you lead and gives you something refreshingly different to enjoy and experience.

7. Clean Up

I know, most people hate doing house chores but having a clean, ordered home does wonders for your overall mental wellbeing. I love ending Sunday with a beautifully clean home, knowing everything is in its place, the floors are clean and all my laundry is put away and ready for the following week.

It can be hard to find the time to stay on top of all the cleaning during the week, so setting aside some time each Sunday to do a cleanup leaves you feeling refreshed, energized and ready for whatever the following week will throw at you.

8. Prepare You Clothes for the Following Week

This may seem a bit excessive, but it saves so much time and cognitive overload. All it takes is one bad night’s sleep and you wake up and find yourself rushing around trying to get yourself ready for your first appointment.

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In that state, trying to decide what clothes to wear in another decision you just don’t need. It’s far better to make a rough plan on a Sunday what you will wear for work and have all these clothes ready, washed and ironed.

It also prevents discovering the shirt you want to wear for the early morning meeting is still in the laundry basket when you need it. Plan ahead. It saves so much time and stress.

9. Do a Weekly Planning Session

I’ve experimented doing a weekly planning session on different days but by far, the best day to plan is Sunday. I find that Sunday evenings are the best times to open up my calendar and to-do list, and to plan for the week ahead. It sets me up for the week ahead.

It also helps me to sleep better on Sunday evening, knowing exactly what I need to accomplish the following week. I can start Monday morning without wasting time trying to figure out where things were left the previous Friday.

What I am looking for are where all my meetings are, which days I can focus on my deep and project work and to make sure I have everything processed from the week before.

10. Clear Out Your Email

What? Doing email on a Sunday? Yes. Why? Because the worst thing you can do is start the new week with an inbox full of last week’s unreplied-to emails.

For most of us, Monday morning is likely to be the one day in the week we do not have a lot of email in our inboxes, so we can begin the day on our most important project work. If you spend an hour or two cleaning up your email from last week, you miss a tremendous opportunity to start with a clean slate.

We don’t get a lot of email in on a Sunday, so you can process your inbox and actionable folders to make sure when the new week begins, you not only have a set of outcomes you want to achieve that week, but also begin the new week with no hangovers from the week before.

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11. Do Some Work on Your Side Project

Now, this does not mean work. This means your own personal projects. It could be a DIY project, doing something in your garden, restoring an old car or writing your book.

Sunday’s give you incredible opportunities to do all those things you dream of doing but never seem to find time to do them. Just getting on and doing these side projects removes you from your everyday work, and allows you a few hours to do the things you love doing.

12. Read a Book

During the week, it can be hard to read a good book. We get up, rush out the door to get to work (or move to our home work station and start the computer). When we finish the day, we are exhausted and just want to vegetate in front of the TV.

Don’t waste Sunday’s. They give you a great opportunity to spend time with the books you want to read.

13. Prepare You Meals for the Following Week

This is a great one for those of you who are following a healthy diet and exercise plan. Preparing meals for the following week not only saves a lot of time, it also encourages you to eat healthy on those exhausting days when all you want to do is eating pizza and flopping down on the sofa.

Having a set of pre-prepared meals reduces the temptation during the week when your willpower is at its lowest. It’s quick, healthy and easy to do. It makes sure you are sticking to your diet plan.

Bottom Line

I am not suggesting you try and fit all these things into Sunday. Just pick a few that resonate with you. Do those that will give you the biggest benefit and most joy.

Sunday’s need to be restful, relaxing and give you a chance to do those things you do not normally have time to do. It’s an incredible day, so don’t waste it laying in bed watching endless episodes of your favourite TV series.

More of What You Can Do During Weekend

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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