New Year’s Tech Housekeeping

I know people have mixed feelings about New Year’s Resolutions. Most of my friends and family think they are silly or don’t bother with them because they “know they’ll never keep them.” I don’t always make an official list, but with the start of a new year comes at least a perceived fresh start. If you’re going through a tough season of life at the moment, I know things aren’t going to miraculously improve because it’s time to buy a new calendar. But I also don’t think it’s a bad thing to step back and reflect on the year gone by, look at what went well, what you have to be thankful for (because there’s always something!), what just flat out stunk, and what you can improve on. So, because I felt the end of 2017 brought with it a lot of self-reflection and goal setting on my part, I went ahead and made a few “resolutions” for myself. Some are tangible goals like reading one book every month. And others are meant to be constant little reminders to live my best life — like trying to stay present and enjoying the journey.

Given that technology has such a prominent place in my everyday life, for the past couple of years I’ve made a point to do some “Tech Housekeeping” as part of any resolutions I set. I like to reflect on how I used (and sometimes abused) tech over the course of the previous year. I also note purchases I regret to try to avoid making the same mistake again and look at what tech “clutter” exists in my life and how I can clean it up. Below I’ve listed a few changes that I made at the end of 2017. My hope is that by making these changes, I can continue to maintain a healthy relationship with technology and my beloved gadgets so that they improve and enhance my life rather than drag me down, distract me from my bigger goals, and keep me from focusing on what really matters.

I’d love to hear if you guys write down resolutions each year, and what’s on your list for 2018. And if you have any good tips for actually STICKING to your resolutions, I could always use the help! 🙂

Notepad Clean-Up — As of 12/25, I had 135 Notes in my iPhone Notes app. It truly is one of my most used apps (if you couldn’t tell), and I find it to be valuable for so many different things. I will share a little more at some point, but first, it was time to purge some of the clutter. I had notes that had a single stray web link in them, random to-do lists, old grocery lists, names of random books or songs…it was a mess. So I went through and knocked the list down to 89. Not bad. If you’re an avid (or even moderate) user of the Notes app, I guarantee you have some junk living in there. So start deleting!

Goodbye, Facebook — I know the argument can be made that all social media is bad. It’s all a waste of time. It all kills productivity. It all makes us jealous and depressed. I have heard all of it, and I even agree with some of it. But I do think there are positives to social media, and as long you use it for the right reasons, while at the same time understanding that the goal of these companies is to get you to use their sites as much as humanly possible, then I think you can maintain a healthy balance. All that said, none of this applies to Facebook. Not for me at least. Facebook is just awful. What once was a friendly place where I used to go to see photos of my friends’ kids and fun life events, is now littered with click-bait articles, fake news (yes, I said it), and idiotic videos. The desktop version is a dumpster fire of side-bar navigation menus. And don’t forget those ads (but then, how could you). The worst. For the record, I am 100% ok with ads as long as they are relevant, well targeted, and visually appealing — but no ad I have ever seen on Facebook has ever compelled me to buy something. The ONLY time I found myself opening Facebook was when I was in that state that every psychologist warns us about  — I was bored, I was procrastinating, or I was multitasking while watching a not-so-engaging TV show or movie. In other words, mindlessly wasting precious hours of my time on earth. I was receiving ZERO value from anything that I watched or read. So I finally decided to be done with it. With a small caveat. I manage the Facebook account for the bank I work for, and I also share my blog posts and burger club adventures there, so I can’t delete the app off of my phone entirely. But I did turn off all notifications and hide the app deep in a folder where it’s not constantly staring me in the face. It was a struggle at first, but after three weeks of no F’Booking, I feel infinitely better. Now, I know Mark Z. just announced a big change that might steer Facebook in a better direction, but we’ve heard these promises before, so I’ll believe it when I see it. Until then, my life is better without it.

Fitbit and Logging Food — I went into more detail about this in one of my recent posts, so I won’t bore you with it all again. But I finally decided to commit to wearing my Fitbit every day (instead of switching back and forth between it and my Apple Watch), and I have made a concerted effort to log my food so I can keep better track of my calories-in/calories-out and my macros (which I’m just starting to learn about!).

Using Twitter with More Purpose — I’ve been a Twitter fan-girl since the early days. I even worked there for a year when I lived in Chicago. I love, love, love Twitter. I have always seen the “point” of it when many have not, it has always been part of my daily routine, and I have always been excited about its potential. And then the 2016 election happened. Since then, 9/10 time I use Twitter, I close the app feeling angry. Like, REALLY angry. It’s become this twisted, dark, negative sinkhole, and this pains me to no end. I used to have a very specific group of users and publishers that I checked every day — some focused on national news, some on local news, some tech related, some sports related — you get the idea. But it’s like a switch was flipped after the election and now no matter where I turn, I can’t drown out the noise and escape the hate. Why not just quit it altogether like I did with Facebook? I certainly could. But I do still find Twitter to be useful! I get so much of my news there, I love following along second-screen style during live events, and I’ve found a ton of cool tech folks on there. However, I had to change something or else I was going to a) have a heart attack, b) smash my phone against the wall, or c) Tweet something I’d regret. So I muted a few words so I wouldn’t see Tweets in my timeline that contained them (Notifications > gear icon > Muted > Muted Words), unfollowed more than a few accounts, refined a few of my Lists, and stopped blindly scrolling through my Timeline. Instead, I start my Twitter day on the Discover tab in hopes of finding the news I am looking for without all of the other noise around it. Then I cautiously branch out from there. So far, so good (mostly).

Turned Off Email Notifications — When it comes to my iPhone usage, this is the single greatest thing I have ever done. We live in a world where we are all constantly drowning in email, and even when you make a valiant effort to claw your way to the top of your inbox, you end up fighting the current and treading water until you’re exhausted and frustrated and you’ve spent two hours accomplishing nothing but replying to mostly unimportant messages. Welcome to my life. But not anymore! I’ve had them muted for a long time, but I finally turned them off entirely. So now when I check my email it’s because I want to, and it has made such a huge difference in my day. I am no longer a slave to those incessant notifications that pull my attention away from my work or the person I’m with. And if something is so important that it can’t wait, the sender will call or text me. Imagine that. The other thing I’ve tried to make a point of doing is only checking my email (work and personal) twice a day. Once in the morning (but not first thing), and once towards the end of the day. I find that I’m able to catch most things this way, and can reply if absolutely necessary without making a person wait overnight for a time-sensitive response.

Turned Off MORE Notifications — After seeing what a difference turning off my email notifications made, I decided to re-examine all of the notifications I was getting to see if there were others I could eliminate. Big ones that I killed: all social media, news apps, retail stores, sports apps. It’s hard to believe how many apps send out notifications and think that what they are sending is even remotely useful. Most notifications are simply little carrots put in front of you to try to get you to re-engage with an app when you otherwise have no reason to. Apple and Android really do give you quite a bit of customization options when it comes to notifications. On your iPhone, go to Settings > Notifications and you can tap into each app you have on your phone and set things up exactly how you want to (this will vary on Android depending on what company made your phone).

Bedroom = No Phone Zone — I’ve read this advice for several years now, and I always thought it was kind of silly. But recently I started to notice that my phone was almost always the last thing I looked at before I went to bed, and the first thing I looked at when I woke up. And that started to bother me. I don’t know what kind of effect it had on my sleep, because truthfully I don’t have any problems falling or staying asleep, but I do know that it was disrupting my mornings. Simply turning off my phone alarm in the morning usually led to thumbing through the notifications that came in overnight, checking work email, and scrolling through Twitter to read the “news” — all things that could wait. Before I knew it I felt anxious, frazzled, and rushed. This too often became the norm, and I was starting too many of my days in a not-so-ideal place. So I finally bought an alarm clock, started charging my phone in another room, and focused on developing a better morning routine. I stole a few ideas from one of my favorite bloggers/podcasters (snuggle with your partner, stretch, drink a glass of water, think about your “top 3” for the day, get some fresh air). It’s still a work in progress, but I think an iPhone free bedroom is ultimately going be a good thing!

Deleted Unused Apps — This is a no-brainer, and probably something many of you do more than once a year. I tend to collect more than a few apps over the course of a year — I’ll read about one, or hear about one on a podcast — and download it on a whim thinking I will use it at some point. Well, that behavior has led to a huge number of “interesting” apps sitting on my phone unused and untouched. So I went through every folder on my iPhone and made sure to dump anything I haven’t used in months or apps that I don’t recognize.

Organized iPhone Photos — If you have a lot of photos on your phone, this can be an EXTREMELY time-consuming task. But if you don’t start now, it’s only going to get more painful. I actually make a point to do this every quarter because I take a ton of photos (although I’m sure many of you take more!). My current total on my iPhone X stands at 11,112. So I decided it was finally time to go through and delete old screenshots and duplicate photos, and group as many photos as possible into Albums. Trust me, once you muster up the motivation to do this you will be so, so happy you did. Just pick a weekend where you’re binging on a low-commitment Netflix show and go to town. It WILL take you hours, but it’s also a fun trip down memory lane!

Purge Old Contacts — This is another thing that I’m sure many of you do. I have a terrible habit of keeping people’s phone numbers in my contact book forever. Literally, forever. When I recently got around to cleaning it up, I found I had numbers in there for people that I hadn’t spoken to since college. WHICH WAS THIRTEEN YEARS AGO.

Good luck with your resolutions — and most of all with living a happy, healthy, and productive 2018!

Cover Image: Steven VanDesande Jr on Unsplash

And just a few photos from our Holiday to make this post a little less text-heavy!

 

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When you live below sea-level you take any chance you get to hike! This is the view from (near) the top of Desert Mountain, AZ.
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Meet Lulu, my parents’ adorable Goldendoodle. She got more Christmas presents than anyone.
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The cake I made for my Dad’s birthday (12/23!). For the record, I was the only one to eat even ONE BITE of this masterpiece. Also for the record, I ate multiple bites.
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And just one more because she’s just so darn cute! Cheers to 2018!

 

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