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

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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.

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  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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Last Updated on October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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