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When computers were first invented, the goal was this new technology would save us time. And for the large part, it does. But when there is so much information coming in all directions, it is easy to get overwhelmed and lose productivity. Seems funny that in the age of computers, we could have so many Post-it notes!

Since we are all in the ‘new year’ mode, here are four ways we save at least five minutes every day while working at your computer. They are all free, and most of them work within a web browser which means it doesn’t matter what operating system you are using:

Go through emails quickly.
When spam filters are on high and you’ve unsubscribed from every 30% off newsletter you can, email can still be overwhelming. If you use Google Apps or Gmail, try The Email Game. It forces you to go through your email and makes a game out of it by giving you points for dealing with it at quick speeds. (From a more boring productivity standpoint, it also lets you know how much time you’ve saved yourself.) I knocked my inbox from 1000 unread emails to under 500 in just a couple of days.

Force time management on your vice websites.
For those of us who get sucked into Facebook (or insert your biggest time wasting website here), there are several apps that work within browsers that can manage your time. You can set time limits on different websites and, once that time has passed, the app will not let you go back on that site unless you reboot your computer. So you can set a 60 minute time limit for facebook.com, a 30 minute time limit for youtube.com, etc. and force yourself to focus.

For Google Chrome: Stay Focused
For Safari:  Waste No Time
For Firefox: Leechblock

Block ads before you see them.
Depending on your browser, you can block those annoying online ads. Think you are one of those people who aren’t influenced by them? Block ads for a week and see how much more productive you are. Even if you haven’t been clicking, you’ve no doubt been reading those pop-up ads and sidebar images more than you realize. Software like FloppyMoose works or you can tweak your settings in your browser if you’d prefer not to install anything.

Read your websites in an RSS reader.
You know all those websites you like to check? Sure, they could be intellectual like your local paper but going from site to site and skimming takes time. To keep up with the information, try an RSS reader like Google Reader and put our favorite websites in it. You can have categories like ‘Business’ and ‘Social Media’ to keep topics straight. Going to one place and doing all our reading is a time saver; you can even bookmark, email articles, and otherwise save information easily right within the interface. Don’t like Google? Just look for ‘rss reader’ in your favorite browser; there’s tons out there. If RSS still sounds a little technical for you, check out this great article about why it’s awesome (video on the bottom is cool).

While it took longer than five minutes to read this article, we hope we’ve at least saved you five minutes a day, which adds up to 1,300 minutes over the course of a year (working 5 days a week for 52 weeks). What are your favorite online time savers?