At this point it helps to define research with a small “r”. Small “r” research is the sort we do every day, often without the label or without the baggage left over from classes we once sat through at school. Research is an important life skill, in the digital world it ranks right up there with managing your money, knowing how to do laundry, and get yourself from point A to point B. If you can find the information you need, when you need it, life is easier and there is more time for the people and activities you care about.
As I have posted on Digital Survival for Everyone™ strategies in the last couple of weeks, I find myself with more to say than when I started. The more I think about it, the more I think about telling the stories of people who know that they need to know more, but aren’t quite sure what that involves yet. Consider the stories you hear from your friends and colleagues to help you better understand how these areas of knowledge are essential for digital survival. To start, instead of presenting the areas of knowledge in terms of the tasks they require, what about thinking of them as imperative actions:
- Back up Your Data
- Protect your Privacy—Safety First!
- Organize Your Computer & Your Information then Find It Again
- Learn, Have Fun, Save Time & Money with the Web
- Connect with People Who Matter Online
- Solve Problems & Troubleshoot
You do need knowledge in all of these areas if you are going to learn computers, educate yourself, update your computer skills, and use the Internet to accomplish your goals. Do you see it yet? Having an overall strategy or approach will help you use your time and energy more effectively, increase your success, and simplify your digital life but do you want to put in the effort? If you are still creating documents and misplacing them regularly; if you don’t mind losing the files, documents, photos, and music on your computer; or if you are unconcerned about invasions of privacy and your financial security, then I still have work to do. But first, the order of the day, using digital survival skills that will support your success and enjoyment more obviously.
Having fun, saving time, and saving money with your computer is easier now than ever before. As using the Internet becomes a way of life for more and more of us, people keep creating useful sites, services, and sources of information. Some folks create useful Web-based tools for profit like Google search where advertisers pay instead of searchers. To keep the public’s attention, Google kept giving away other tools like Gmail, their free webmail, and Google Docs, an online alternative to MS Office® on the same basis. Some sites start as expressions of creativity to help you stretch your mind, paint like Jackson Pollack with your mouse, or do jigsaw puzzles online using your own pictures. Still others begin as a community service like the open source browser FireFox that grew out of the need for better and safer options to Internet Explorer® or GasBuddy that emerged in response to consumers banding together to comparison shop for gas. Are you tired of looking up directions and movie show times in different places? Save time and use the Web. Do you know where to find the cheapest gas? Don’t put up with not having a clue.
Use the Web to find out about plays, museum exhibits, live shows, and other cultural events are going on in your local area. You can often find coupons, purchase tickets, and get all the information you need on the Web, even at 3 in the morning. Make using the Web a habit and you will quickly improve your skills and your weekly fun quotient.
You can save time and money by comparison shopping for just about anything with different search engines. Some of my favorites are: PriceGrabber, BizRate, PriceWatch, Google Product Search, PriceSCAN, and cnet reviews. Get ready for the holidays with Black Friday deals online, or deals when you’re shopping locally, courtesy of Lidija Davis at ReadWriteWeb.
You can save time so many ways, check traffic before leaving home to avoid surprises, look up the weather, check your local news station websites for school closings, or even the school’s website itself (I know I am not the only one who hated having to keep up with the revolving list at the bottom of the TV screen back in the day).
I like to have groceries delivered on occasion by Peapod, or most anything delivered by Amazon, drugstore items are so much easier to shop for online since it’s hard to park at my local store and the prices are outrageous. With some planning delivery fees can be eliminated or reduced, and all of my favorite merchants regularly offer other incentives. Netflix delivers movies with no due dates for less than I used to pay at the local rental store too. Since I am the one who does the shopping, I am acutely aware how much time it takes to drive around and get everything done, especially when a holiday approaches. So I will save my time and money, and still support local organic vendors and independent retailers in part by using the Internet.
Fun means different things to different people, so pick your poison and do some searching to see what turns up. Saving time and money is saving time and money, no matter how you slice it—enjoy.
Next time I’ll address using your computer and the Internet to keep in touch with the people that matter to you, an inexpensive thrill if ever there was one!