There’s no better time to hit the restart button on bad habits (or begin adopting good ones).
Get to Inbox Zero
Whether your inbox has 200 or 20,000 emails, too many messages can be daunting. Rather than spending precious time organizing and deleting that mess, steal this quick trick from Liz Gumbinner, co-publisher and editor-in-chief of CoolMomTech.com. Select all messages in your inbox—not just the emails on that page. Then move everything to a newly created label/folder like “2016” or “Inbox 2016.” Note that Gmail uses labels, but this “cheat” also works for Outlook, Yahoo! and others.
Use Apps to Declutter
Gumbinner shares some “good apps to help you scan and save” so you, too, can get—and stay—organized in the new year. Artkive (free to download, with additional fees) is an app that lets you digitally archive your child’s artwork so you don’t feel guilty about tossing the original. You also can order a hardcover book of prints online for an additional charge. The JotNot Pro app ($4.99) is like having a PDF scanner and fax in your purse. Scan recipes, receipts, permission slips, contracts, and more. The app also has an outbound fax machine that lets you send faxes from your phone (faxing requires credits available as in-app purchases). While it’s not an app, CatalogChoice is still helpful. It’s a free, non-profit service that helps you rein in your junk mail. Just submit your opt-out request for unwanted catalogs, and CatalogChoice will take it from there.
Ask Before Sharing a Friend’s Photo
“Adopt a think-before-share policy,” says Devorah Heitner, Ph.D., author of Screenwise: Helping Kids Thrive (and Survive) in Their Digital World and founder of Raising Digital Natives. Check in with friends and family before posting their photo on social media, she suggests, because “some people may not want to share.” Public photos can lead to negative emotions, whether that’s feeling left out or embarrassed. Asking older kids for permission before sharing their photos online can teach them about privacy and reinforce trust, she explains.
Check in With Your Own FOMO
Otherwise known as “Fear of Missing Out.” Consider yourself lucky if Facebook or Instagram has never made you feel envious, inadequate or disappointed. “If looking at other people’s feed is bumming you out, it’s a good time to take a break,” says Heitner. Remove the app from your phone or take a hiatus for a week. It’s easy to forget that real life isn’t a perfectly curated stream of magazine cover-worthy feasts and vacation photos that look like travel ads. “It can feel like everything in life is a performance for social media,” she adds. But you can always opt out.
Stop Using the Same Password for Everything
“If you are reusing passwords, even if you have one for banking and one for everything else, consider that worthless,” says Joe Siegrist, vice president and general manager of LastPass, a password manager. Change your passwords immediately so that you have a unique one for every site. While you’re at it, update your security questions. Siegrist recommends using a random string of characters for security answers, for instance, “Qx42b93” as your first pet’s name. “Lots of sites use questions as a backdoor into your account. Reusing these is almost as bad as reusing your password,” he adds.
Disable Auto-Fill in Your Browser
Don’t save credit card numbers on websites, especially for lesser known sites, warns Siegrist. Along the same lines, don’t let your browser auto-fill any of your personal information such as name and address. Browsers tend to store personal information in a way that’s easily retrievable by malware, he explains. In turn, this sensitive data can be used to steal your identity or run up charges on your behalf. He recommends disabling the auto-fill and password-saving features in your browser before a hacker steals your info. “From what we’ve seen, it’s not if, but when, a security problem will happen,” he adds.
Upgrade Your Router
It may not be the sexiest gadget on the market, but a reliable, speedy wireless router can improve your experience streaming movies, FaceTiming over Wi-Fi, downloading files, and more. “There are lots of low-cost router upgrades. It’s a good place to spend money,” says Michael Berk, executive editor of The Wirecutter. If you’re renting a modem (the device that talks to your internet service provider) or a combo modem-router, buy your own modem. “Your provider is charging you for one that is already out of date,” says Berk. (One caveat: If you’re served by fiber, this is not an option.) If you live in a large or multi-level house where Wi-Fi can be spotty, Berk suggests getting a mesh networking kit, which uses a “satellite” system that communicates across the home.
Turn Your House Into a Smart Home
“If you want to improve your quality of life inside, start with smart lighting,” says Berk. He recommends Philips Hue, which is easy to set up and retrofit into existing fixtures. You can also control ambiance and set schedules from an iOS or Android device. For instance, you may want bright lights during the work day and mood lighting for binge-watching. You can take smart lighting one step further with a voice-control speaker like an Amazon Echo, Google Home, or Apple HomeKit. “What we like is the ability to connect to other things in your house,” says Berk. “It’s the center of a smart home system.”