In the days before the new year arrives, we return to one of the most-maligned traditions of the year: New Year’s resolutions. It’s common knowledge that few people actually achieve the lofty goals they set for themselves in the champagne-buzzed hours right before midnight. So the strategy we’re advocating this year is to resolve to do better in an area where even a small change can have a lasting effect: your tech habits.
Whether you want to cut down on digital noise or just find smarter ways of using the devices that you find indispensable, read on for 10 great New Year’s resolutions that can improve your everyday life with your favorite device in your pocket in a meaningful way.
1. Make more calls instead of sending texts
We’ve all done it before: seen a missed call or gotten a voicemail from a friend or loved one, and responded by simply sending a text. But the quality of your conversations will be much higher if you occasionally take the time out of your busy day to call your mom or your best friend. Whether you’re sitting in your living room or taking a walk around the neighborhood, you’ll probably find that your mood is improved by talking with someone you love.
2. Curb your Netflix addiction
You probably have as many favorite TV series and Netflix shows as the next guy. But you can free up time for more enriching and productive activities by limiting the number of nights that you spend parked in front of your TV or computer binge-watching a TV series. We’re not talking about unplugging your television or canceling your subscription, but limiting yourself to a night or two of Netflix each week can go a long way toward keeping your addiction in check.
3. Keep your phone off the dinner table
Your smartphone enables you to stay connected to everything — your friends’ conversations, your family’s plans for that upcoming reunion, emails from work, notifications from news apps, and reminders about all of the things you have to do — at all times. That can be great when you’re trying to stay productive throughout the day, but it’s a good idea to shut that all off when you sit down for dinner with your significant other, a friend, or your family. You don’t have to turn your phone off, but consider putting it on silent or even activating airplane mode so that it stops grabbing the attention that you should be paying to the people around you.
4. Recycle or resell your old devices
Most of us are guilty of keeping smartphones that are past their prime or tablets that have been replaced in a drawer or a shoebox somewhere, collecting dust, just in case of an emergency. As you try to streamline your life in 2016, get rid of some of the clutter and let go of those devices. Recycle them, or resell them if you can get a decent amount of money for them.
5. Declutter your phone
Unless you really take the time to streamline your apps and stored files regularly, there’s probably an entire layer of digital detritus that you can delete. Clear out apps you don’t need, back up your photos (and delete photos you don’t need to store locally anymore), and clean out old backups from your cloud storage service of choice. Rearrange your home screen to move the apps you check obsessively out of sight, and take time to reevaluate how many apps you really want sending you notifications. Additionally, you can take a few steps to keep your phone running like new.
6. Clean your phone and earbuds occasionally
Clearing out apps and unneeded files is the only kind of maintenance that your phone needs. If you’ve ever stopped to think about all the dirt and bacteria that accumulate on your phone’s touchscreen or on the earbuds you wear on your commute everyday, you’ve probably realized that your gadgets would benefit from a little sanitizing sooner rather than later. Make a habit of keeping your devices clean and you might find it easier to avoid catching a cold or the flu.
7. Start using that fitness tracker again
Most people who buy a fitness tracker use it for a little while, and then get bored and drop it in a drawer. If you’re guilty of abandoning a fitness tracker, take it out of the drawer and put it back to work. Even if you don’t wear it everyday, or aren’t happy with the numbers the companion app shows you, wearing it for even a few days a week will make you more conscious of your habits, good and bad, plus prevent a perfectly good device and the money you spent on it from going to waste.
8. Get better about taking breaks
We’ve all had the experience of getting engrossed in a task or project and spending hours on end looking at a screen, with no breaks to walk around, clear your head, and keep your eyes from glazing over. Break the habit by using a scheduling app to remind you to look up from the screen, get up, and walk around occasionally. Regular breaks can go a long way toward keeping your eyes and your brain from getting worn out by too much screen time.
9. Take a bus or train instead of Uber or Lyft
Trying to curb your impact on the environment in 2016? Instead of reaching for your phone to get a ride with Uber or Lyft, download the app for your city’s public transit system and take a bus or a train the next time you want to get somewhere without driving. It may require a little more planning than you’re used to, but opting for public transportation is a safe and environmentally friendly way to travel.
10. Change your passwords periodically
There are so many important measures you can take to protect your privacy online. But not all of them require as much knowledge about encryption and security as you might imagine. Get the ball rolling and start small by changing the passwords to all of your critical accounts, especially if they haven’t been changed in years, or if they’re already insecure passwords (think “1234″ or “password”). While you’re at it, consider using a password manager to create stronger, more secure passwords, with random strings of letters, numbers, and symbols.