It’s a (relatively) new year. So chances are good you’ve been thinking about a New Year’s resolution or two. There are some awesome resolutions that can make 2017 your best year yet, just as there are some not-so-great resolutions that are destined for failure. The beginning of a new year is always a good time to think about your health. But in addition to thinking about your diet and your exercise regimen, we’d recommend you think about another realm of your life that can have a big effect on your mental and physical health: your life online.
Goals related to your tech usage are an often overlooked kind of resolution (both at the beginning of the year, and at other times of the year when you have the time to stop and reflect). But taking a moment to overhaul your online life can help you to curb unhealthy behaviors and counteract some of the bad gadget habits that are far too easy to mindlessly adopt. After all, nobody wants to be simultaneously stressed out by and addicted to their smartphone, tablet, computer, or smartwatch.
Our favorite tech-related goals, whether you’re setting them at the start of a new year or in the middle of a year that isn’t going the way you’d hoped, are pretty easy to accomplish. (This can’t usually be said of goals like overhauling your diet or achieving challenging feats at the gym.) And better yet, they’ll have a quick and tangible effect on your relationship with technology. Read on to check out our favorite ways to foster healthier habits around your smartphone and your computer, and learn the easiest ways to feel safer and happier in your life online.
1. Start managing your passwords
Are you constantly stressed out by trying to remember passwords to all of the accounts you use online? That gets pretty difficult, especially if you’re creating strong, secure passwords. So now is the time to finally let some software do the remembering for you. We’ve long been advocates of using a password manager, especially if you want access to your password on multiple devices. They’ll also make it easier to generate strong passwords for each of your accounts. But you can also use the password-saving feature in your favorite browser if you just need a simple solution. You can finally stop the cycle of forgetting and resetting passwords every time you want to use an account you haven’t logged into recently.
2. Enable two-factor authentication wherever it’s available
Another quick task you can complete to dramatically improve your safety online? Enabling two-factor authentication in critical places, like your Google account, and anywhere else that it’s available. Once it’s enabled, your account will automatically be much more secure. That’s because when you attempt to log in, you’ll receive a message, typically a text message, with a code you’ll need to enter to verify that you are who you say you are.
3. Clean up your inbox
For many people, it’s pretty counterproductive to try to achieve and maintain an inbox with zero old messages. (But for others, it’s a key part of feeling organized and caught up.) A more reasonable way to clean up your inbox is to make use of your inbox’s sorting tools and to unsubscribe from all the newsletters and promotional emails you don’t really want. You can use a tool like Unroll.Me to see all of your subscriptions. You can unsubscribe to the ones you don’t want, and even combine the subscriptions you do want into a single email. And if you’re using a platform like Gmail, you can sort the emails you get into a variety of different tabs, which makes the most important messages easy for you to find.
4. Delete accounts you no longer need
If it’s your actual online accounts, and not just your emails, that are making you feel suffocated every time you check your email, there’s a relatively straightforward fix for that as well. You can use deseat.me to “clean up your existence” online. How can you do that? The platform will show you a list of all of the accounts associated with your Google account, along with direct links to delete them. You’ll probably be pretty surprised by the sheer number of services, sites, and apps that you’ve created an account for. But you’ll be able to easily delete the ones you don’t need, which can be a big relief.
5. Take care of your phone, your computer, your tablet, and the other gadgets in your life
When you depend on a device day in and day out, it’s not surprising that it can get a little bit slow or glitchy. Fortunately, you can counteract that phenomenon with a few easy steps for taking care of your devices — no elaborate or expensive maintenance necessary. For instance, you can keep your smartphone running like new by updating your software and uninstalling unnecessary apps, plus cleaning up your phone’s storage. And even if your phone is well past its prime, you can make it last another year by changing a few settings, getting a broken screen repaired, and either upgrading or augmenting the battery.
6. Back up your photos and your data regularly (or better yet, automatically)
Even the laziest gadget owner should back up their data and their photos occasionally. But we’re all guilty of neglecting that task. Thanks to apps and utilities that you can use on your phone, computer, or tablet, you can largely automate the backup process. You can use an app like Google Photos to automatically back up the photos you take on your smartphone. Once they’re backed up to the cloud, you can even clear them out of your phone’s local storage, which will give you more storage space to work with and more peace of mind that you won’t lose your photos if you drop your phone in the pool this summer.
7. Upgrade your home Wi-Fi network
If your home Wi-Fi network is slow and laggy, chances are good nobody in your house is happy. (There’s just too much Netflix to stream to put up with slow Wi-Fi.) Fortunately, there are some easy ways to improve the Wi-Fi signal in your home. While you’re at it, it may be a good time to upgrade your Wi-Fi router. You can even try a new mesh networking Wi-Fi system to get better Wi-Fi in a large home or an apartment with spotty Wi-Fi signal. If your router is old or was given to you by your internet provider, you’re likely to get a much better Wi-Fi experience by investing in some new hardware.
8. Be more mindful of your social media usage
We all know excessive Facebook usage has been linked to some pretty negative psychological consequences. And while we could use those to argue that you should stop using Facebook, the reality is few of us are ready to quit the world’s most popular social network cold-turkey. (Like many other apps, it’s tough to quit if all of your friends are on it.) A better solution? Just be more mindful of how much time you’re spending on social media. And assure yourself that you can sign out or shut it down if it isn’t helping your mood. Stay conscious of the fact you don’t have to keep Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and Twitter constantly updated. Don’t stress yourself out trying to look happy.
9. Stop the spread of fake news — and stop getting your news from Facebook
It’s truly impossible to keep up with all of the news stories you feel like you should know about. But believing everything you read on Facebook — or turning to Facebook for your news in the first place — really isn’t the solution. This is the time to stop stressing about knowing everything and start making sure the information you do have the time to read (or skim) is coming from a reputable source. You can even use an app or a Chrome extension to spot fake news. You’ll feel better knowing whether the story you’re reading came from a reliable source. And your Facebook News Feed will likely be a little less overwhelmed with stories that hinge on willful misunderstandings and blatant conspiracy theories.
10. Make time to do things other than looking at screens
None of us have enough time to do everything that we want to do. But as you’ve probably realized when you’re scrolling through Facebook or trying to figure out what to watch on Netflix, most of us have more time than we think we do. A great tech-related goal is to step away from your screens every once in a while to find time to do more of the thing that you want to do. Maybe that’s getting more exercise. Perhaps it’s working on a creative project. Maybe it’s finding a way to pursue a more meaningful or a more joyful existence. Whatever you want to do, chances are good that you can get closer to your goals by stepping away from the screen.