How to Keep your Information Private

In today’s technologically advanced world, it is more important than ever to keep your information safe and secure. You probably have absolutely no idea what kind of information is even being tracked about you on and offline, and the biggest mistake most of us are making is thinking we are safe when using the internet, (or not thinking about it at all). Knowing that over 2 billion users on the net at the same time as you makes us wonder, how safe can your security and privacy on the world wide web really be? Although living in the Age of Information is wonderful, the Internet has a darker side to it, and all internet users must understand how to protect their, and their family’s online security. Do you ever wonder why Facebook’s ads always seem to relate to what you were searching for online just the other day? Or why Amazon’s suggested items displayed a couch you were looking up in a random Google search? Companies, advertisers, hackers, scam artists and governments around the world are increasingly interested in knowing exactly what you’re up to when you browse the web. We hold our personal security and that of our clients with an utmost regard to ensure safety for sensitive data, and we have put together a list of tips, tips, and tools you can use to keep prying eyes off of your traffic. Even the most careful of us are vulnerable to imperfect technology and the constant “updated terms and conditions” on our beloved social networks and work spaces, so it is important to always read the small print before we anxiously click “proceed”. You might not think you have anything to hide, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy the benefits of online privacy, or piece of mind knowing your identity will remain yours, and yours ONLY. 

For starters:

Third-party cookies are the most commonly used method for advertisers building a usage profile on you. What that means is, they pull information from these “cookies” about your browsing habits to keep tabs on your preferences and tendencies. Every major browser offers you the ability to turn off these cookies. This is a first step to be on your way to anonymous, but certainly not the end all be all of privacy measures. Check out this article from Digital Citizen about how you can go about disabling this feature on your browser.

Password Strength:

Next on our list is an obvious, but highly neglected approach; strengthening your passwords! If you’re an online shopper, seller, browser, business account member, blogger, services user.. basically anything requiring personal and/or financial information, you must understand how important not only the character make up of your password is, but also the frequency in which you change it. Major sites get hacked all the time, and once their code is cracked, access to any information you may or may not even know was saved, is free for the taking. It is always advantageous to use long phrases, include numbers, symbols, capital and lowercase letters. Make it memorable and unique, and try to stay away from names, birth dates, social security numbers, or anything the snooper either has already, or could guess. Experts also urge you to change your sensitive passwords at least every six months, and do not use the same password across all of your accounts. 

Anti-virus Protection Programs:

Online SecurityMalware (short for malicious hardware), is software designed and used by the darker side of internet users to infiltrate, access, or damage your devices without your consent. Malware includes many different methods of attack, such as viruses, worms, spyware, trojans, scare ware, etc. These days, it’s much more common to be blindsided by a trojan meant to steal your data rather than a virus meant to do damage, but the vast majority of top rated security programs include both aspects to protect you and your information. If you’re wondering which program out of the large amount of options is right for you, read this article from PCMag for more insight on which features will be the most relevant to your needs. Outlined is a full ranking and rating of the best of the best Antivirus Protection of 2016. 

Privacy Settings On Social Media:

Social media platforms are always tweaking and updating their privacy agreements. And it seems like topics such as whether or not information is kept on their servers, how it’s being used, and where it goes when it is deleted, are just some of those that are constantly debated amongst it’s users. But there’s more to it than that. Now there are countless apps and sites that have landing pages tailored to request access to your social media, (which is much quicker than typing in your email etc. to create an account). What you don’t realize, is that by authorizing the access, you are exposing your web habits and friend lists to that third-party company, and you probably forgot you did it an hour later!!! Worry not – we all do it. But now we’re going to tell you how to fix it. First, we recommend limiting your visibility on search engines. I’m sure you’ve noticed from time to time when you are searching a person, place, or business, a Facebook or twitter page appears for that search subject. Instead of allowing any person anywhere to find your personal page, disallow for that to be shared with the world. Here’s how you can do that on Google. It is wise for anyone and everyone to know that they have the choice of whether they would like to be publicly searchable on these platforms, and your first step is to check what your current settings are. To adjust your settings on Facebook, click on the top right “settings” icon and then select “privacy” from the left-hand column. From there you can manage “who can look me up?”. 

Remember, you must know what you are signing up for and know how to configure the settings, limit your information and where you’re saving your banking, make sure you are protected with a program. If it looks suspicious and feels illegitimate, don’t take a chance. If you are concerned about your online presence or would like to find out more information about how you can protect yourself on the internet, please reach out to us with any questions you might have. 

How to Start Organizing Your Inbox

Get Control of What Seems Uncontrollable

Let’s face it, you may have a beautiful desk, color-coded planner and pristine car, but chances are there is a disaster hidden where most people are unlikely to see it: your email inbox.  At In Order To Succeed® we believe that an organized email boosts productivity, eliminates stress, and makes for a happier, healthier you. Start applying our tips for organizing your email and watch how quickly you start to feel more in control.

The Overflowing Inbox

Email.  Some years ago it was primarily used as a go to method reserved for work communications. For most of us, the daily information flood of sales notices, social media updates, newsletters, and marketing emails now make up a significant portion of our inboxes. It can get out of control very quickly with messages going unread, undeleted, and haphazardly marked and tagged.  The easiest way to get control of your email and begin working toward achieving the elusive inbox zero, is to begin to simplify it.

Plan An Unsubscribing Session

One of the problems with email is that we all sign up for mailing lists we’re just not interested in.  Maybe it’s to get a coupon, maybe it’s because we enjoyed a few articles on a site.  Whatever the reason, it’s time to kick those space-hogging subscriptions to the curb.  Pour a cup of your favorite beverage at a time when you can give at least 90 minutes attention to nothing but your inbox.  Open it and scan through just for subscriptions.  Do not open anything else, ignore the beeps and leave your other tabs closed (it’s tough, we know!).  Open each email and immediately scroll to the bottom where you’ll find the teeny font where you can unsubscribe and DO IT.  If you haven’t opened and used the information in the subscription you’re not going to.  You don’t need to know that someone else pinned a recipe similar to yours or what the specials are at Target — there’s an app for that.  Only keep subscriptions to the emails you open and actually read.

After Unsubscribing

After your 90-minute unsubscribing marathon, make it a habit to open, read, and delete all of your subscription emails.  Anything from yesterday that is unread tomorrow should be unsubscribed from going forward.  If you subscribe to something for a coupon, once it comes IMMEDIATELY go into the email and unsubscribe.

Avoid The Siren Song of Email Managing Software

At some point I signed up for a service that would roll up my emails into one.  Instead of a ton of subscriptions I would get a daily email with all of those emails.  And I ignored them.  Services that say they are here for organizing your email often sound better than they are.  The key is to only subscribe to things you will actually read, recognize those you don’t, and get rid of them.

Avoid Notification Emails

Many apps include an option for an email notification.  But do you really need an email every time someone comments on a photo you liked on Facebook?  No.  Your notifications come up when you log onto various websites so unless it’s something very important (like major breaking news, your bank, or a job search site) stop the notification emails.  One of the easiest ways to start organizing your email is to declutter your inbox!

Set up Filters

If you still want to receive and review the social network notifications, just not be notified every minute, create a filter and rule on your email platform to identify incoming messages that are generated by your network sites and give them a label. You can set up a rule to then have them redirected into an archive folder to review at a later time. This way, you can still keep up to date with your social news and events, but they are out of your inbox.

Stop BCCing Yourself

The last bit of email advice we have is to stop blind copying yourself.  Your sent email file is a valuable thing but the blind copy clutters the heck out of your inbox. Just don’t clean out your sent mail so that you have your copy if needed.  It will be nearly impossible to feel like you’re organizing your email if it’s overflowing with messages you’ve sent to yourself. Added tip: don’t print emails.  You don’t need hard copies of your emails — they take up space and add to the clutter.  Take a screen shot of important information and add to your phone or write what you need into your planner.

Read, Delete, Repeat

Rather than keeping your email open all day or having notifications for it on your phone, only open your email twice a day: when you start working, and when you’re winding down.  8 a.m. and 4 p.m. if you work a traditional work day.  In addition to being harder to manage, multi-tasking just doesn’t work and getting distracted by the constant beep and buzz of emails that likely don’t matter isn’t helping your productivity.  If someone needs you immediately they will call or text.

When you settle in to check your email, do so with intention — this is essential to organizing your email.  Open your email inbox and nothing else.  Skim and select those you know you won’t read and delete them without opening.  Then start with your least recent email (the first to come in after you checked before ending work).  Read it, do what you need to with pertinent information, and then delete it.  Scared to delete?  Here’s how to get comfortable with it:

  • If an email has a meeting request that is linked to your calendar simply accept or decline.  It’s now in your calendar or not.
  • If an email has a meeting request that is not linked, assess whether the time/location works, put it in your calendar, respond and delete.
  • Contact info?  Add to your contacts and delete.
  • Project info?  If you have a hard file, print and place it in.  If you are paperless, screenshot the necessary info and delete.

Once your inbox is empty, close your email and don’t look again until your day is unwinding.  Eventually you’ll get into such a habit that it won’t bother you to see something at 5pm that came in at 1pm and wasn’t all that important. If you can’t act right away create a follow up folder and go back to it within 48 hours.

For other ideas to achieve inbox zero, check out these helpful apps that can assist you and make the process a little less daunting. Here is a good list.

In Order To Succeed® has a wealth of talent and experience in assisting clients get their digital spaces under control. Let us help you — organizing your email is the easiest place to start.  Once you have that down you’ll be excited to see what else you can accomplish with that newfound time.