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Tech Resolutions: 4 Steps Towards Digital Clean-Up

digital clean-up, tech fixes, tech talkYou know the old adage about the cobbler’s children going barefoot?

Well, sometimes that is me. Not that I make shoes, but as a tech person, a social media and digital consultant and teacher, and a writer, I’m always advising people to do this and that. But it seems I don’t always follow my own advice.

Recently I discovered I have nearly 200 apps on my phone. I have no idea why I downloaded over half of them.

Clearly, I am in need of some self care, and not just for my gadgets. My email overfloweth. My writing stays in draft. Sound familiar? Join me.

Four Ways To Do A Digital Clean-Up

Untangle Email. 

First a word of advice: If you’re using Yahoo mail or Hotmail, stop right now. Those services are too prone to hacking. If you aren’t using Gmail, I suggest you start now. Yes, all those bad things about Google and watch out for your privacy. Beyond that, though, with Gmail you get Google Docs, a pretty good and free replacement for Microsoft Office, with 15 gigabytes of free Cloud storage.

But don’t be like me and end up with over 20,000 emails in your inbox. This doesn’t mean I haven’t read all those emails. I have. I just haven’t taken advantage of three of Gmail’s terrific features.

  1. I haven’t organized read emails into relevant folders.
  2. I haven’t used “tags” to help my searches.
  3. I haven’t used Gmail’s capabilities to push certain emails into designated folders.

Want to know more? Jeremy Caplan, the Director of Education of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism put together a SlideShare with great Gmail tips a few years ago. Don’t be like me. Follow his advice.

My fix will involve setting aside an hour a day to comb through old emails, file the ones I need to keep, and delete the irrelevant bloat. It might take me all 365 days of 2017.

Stop With the Intrusive Apps. 

My husband has a Fitbit. I use the Moves app on my iPhone. Recently, at the end of a day we had spent together entirely, he had over 12K steps. I had 8200. Moves is more accurate than any gadget I’ve tried. It is also owned by Facebook, about the most intrusive app you can imagine. Did you know that most likely you have given Facebook permission to use your camera, your microphone, have access to your photos, and so forth? Now Facebook is probably never going to bother watching anyone who doesn’t cover a laptop camera or listen in if Siri is open on iPhone. But what happens if someone nefarious gets ahold of the Facebook servers? I’m not paranoid, but there’s much international hacking afoot these days.

My choice here is to either find an independent, reliable app that asks for less info or get a device that is accurate and doesn’t need all my personal data to sync.

To find out what permissions you’ve given to the apps on your computer browser, check out MyPermissions.org.

And for more on the debate about how much personal information you’re giving Facebook, especially if you use messenger, MakeUseOf.Com has an easy-to-read explanation.

Use Medium More for Writing. 

When you’re a writer or a blogger, there’s the stuff you get paid to do. There’s the stuff you need to do for your blog. And then there’s the stuff you just want to write. I introduce my journalism, writing, and social media students to Medium at the beginning of every semester. It’s free. It’s easy to use. You can do all kinds of formatting and use graphics and photos effectively and easily. You can even create your own “publication!” Who uses Medium? Well, the White House for one. Paulo Coehlo for another. Although Medium does pay some people to write and edit, most writers won’t make a penny directly from their work. But writers can gain unexpected followers and fame by addressing a meaningful subject in an original way. Also, your comments on someone else’s pieces can go viral and count toward your own writing stats.

So why, then, do I have over 30 pieces “in draft” on Medium? Especially when my stuff has gotten picked up by some of the platform’s own publications? I’ve been — uh — really busy?

Again, don’t be like me. If one of your recent blog posts didn’t get a response on your own blog, try putting it on Medium. See what happens. Whole new exposure, whole new world.

Medium itself provides a lot of explanation and resources for newcomers, but you might want to check out this blog from Hubspot as well (and, remember, you don’t have to sign up or buy a thing from Hubspot if you just want to read their blogs).

Get a “Smarter Home.” 

I’m not really sure if I need Amazon Echo or Google Home to turn on my music or tell me the weather every morning — but maybe I do. The ability to control our environment with our voices is a little scary (that privacy thing again), but also appealing. So many times I mean to leave on a small light so I can see my way into the house if I return at night, but I forget. I like the idea of calling out, “turn on the lights,” and there will be light. I wouldn’t mind an oven I could turn to preheat while not budging from my chair as I answer email. I’m also entranced by Mattel’s Aristotle, basically a version of Amazon Echo for kids. I imagine all our sleep-deprived children not having to rise from their beds when our otherwise-perfect grandchildren wake in the night. A simple voice command, and Raffi can sing them lullabies.

As we need to get smarter about how we use our planet’s resources, home assistants can also be helpful. Many devices that enable people to control their thermostats from their phones (so you don’t have to leave your heat or air conditioning at your favorite setting all day while you’re away) are on the market, and they’re getting cheaper.

C\Net is a great place to keep up on “smart home” developments and gadgets.

Do you have methods for cleaning up your email? Are you using any “smart home” gadgets? And what fitness trackers do you like? Really! I need to know, so tell me in your comments.

Linda Bernstein

Linda Bernstein is a professor, writer, social media consultant, and proud Baby Boomer. She has written hundreds of articles for dozens of national and international newspapers, magazines, and websites. Instagram: wordwhacker

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