Tech Resolutions for 2022 You Will Actually Do
New Year’s resolutions often start out with great intention, then diminish before Valentine’s day. But for the tech you use every day, there are a few simple things to take care of that not only improve security and functionality, but some will make your life a lot easier this year. The greatest part? Most of these tips only have to be done once a year. So, take the opportunity of a freshly starting new year to do these things that you probably know you should have been doing already.
Set up a password locker
A couple of years ago, I realized my husband was carrying around a folded piece of paper in his wallet with all of our important passwords. There are so many vulnerabilities to carrying a piece of paper, keeping a list at home, or even storing a typed list on your phone or computer, but so many people do this. My husband was reluctant to move to a digital solution, but has now adopted the LastPass app I installed on his phone. Once you adapt to this new way of doing things, you’ll find it is not only a much safer way to have immediate access to all of your important passwords, but also very convenient.
LastPass is the same service my business uses, but there is a free version that works great for individuals on one device. For just $3 a month, you can upgrade to the premium personal version, with added security and an account that works across all of your devices, including tablets, smartphones, desktop and laptop computers. Just create one strong password for your password locker, and you will only have that one password to remember for all of your accounts. Once you log in, LastPass gives you the option to autofill your username and password each time you access one of your accounts. You can categorize passwords by subject, such as “Banking” or “Shopping” or simply search for a stored password. Each record can contain notes and details on the account, such as an additional pin or security questions for two-factor authentication.
For security, LastPass will log out when your phone goes to sleep or you haven’t accessed the tab on a computer for a while.
Added note on securing passwords: Don’t save passwords in your browser or in the app itself. You are relying on each company to have up-to-date security protocols, and many do not. Saving to a device’s password manager is also unsecure. I, or anyone with above average computer skills, could access all of your passwords on an unsecured device in less time than it would take for you to make a trip to the bathroom and back.
Create a system image
Here is a secret computer and software companies don’t want you to know: You can create a complete backup of your computer including programs. Hardware components on computers, especially laptops, can and do fail. When there is an issue requiring reinstallation of your operating system, this will wipe out any programs stored on the same drive. If you have software that you don’t have the installation information for, you will lose that software and have to repurchase it.
Besides regular data backups, I strongly suggest you create a system image at least once a year, and the beginning of the year is a great time to do so.
For Mac users, the process is quite easy with Apple’s free Time Machine app. For PC users, the info is a bit harder to find.
Here is how to create a system image on Windows. I have had no issues creating a system backup on DVD-R discs. You can try saving the system image to a removable drive, but if you have issues, buy or borrow a removable optical drive. Don’t be confused by the text “looking for an older system backup and repair tool?” in the instructions. This method was included with the Windows 7 operating system, and Microsoft did not officially include it with Windows 10.
As an additional note, keep your backup disks secure, and any backup drives encrypted, as someone could steal all of your information without ever touching your device.
Organize your email
I recently spent a whole day completely cleaning and organizing my office. It was a mess, and now things are neat and organized and ready for the new year. The same practice can be applied to your email inbox—if it is an overrun, unorganized mess, it will feel so much better to clean it up. Here are a few tricks I learned when my business emails grew to five inboxes.
- Add an app extension to sort mail from any apps you may have signed up with. In Gmail, you can use one email address and inbox, but customize the address to make sorting mail easier. You can do this by adding plus (“+”) signs to your email address to create alternative addresses. For example, if my email were firstname.lastname@example.org, I could use email@example.com. firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
- Create folders in your mailbox. Label folders by client name or subject and try to be diligent about moving mail to these folders. Not only will it be easier to find past emails, but your inbox will remain uncluttered.
- Set up pre-written responses. A pre-set email signature is a given, but anyone who has worked in customer service knows the incredible time savings of setting up canned responses. In Gmail for PC users, or in iCloud for Mac users, you can do this by setting up templates, or check here for Outlook canned responses.
- Use filters to sort mail. Many people know how to search through mail based on who sent it, content or even email size. Once you have applied the desired filters, there is a lot more you can do. Sort the mail into folders, mark items you don’t want to lose track of as important, archive mail and more, depending on the mail app you are using. Also, jump on unsubscribing any emails that are unwanted and check through your spam folder and retrieve and genuine emails that are marked as spam.
- Combine email inboxes. On my phone, I have several email accounts combined in one place. I can quickly scan through incoming mail, while maintaining separate accounts.
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Clean up your devices
Just the activity of using your devices every day creates temporary files and folders, superfluous apps and other junk. Make a date for a deep cyber clean, including defragment the hard drive and remove apps you’re not using anymore. Delete or organize those files and folders you dropped on the desktop. Turn off the device and flip the keyboard upside down and vacuum with a soft brush. The same alcohol-free cleaner and cloth you use on your TV screen can be used on the computer screen and even the case. Just make sure the device is off, and you lightly spray the cloth, not the machine.
Since 2021 was a bit of a hot mess, make a New Year’s Resolution to get your tech clean and organized. Then, get ready for a productive 2022!