For me, the new year is about starting fresh, or at least, as close as possible, which is why I spend as much time as I can between Christmas and New Year’s crossing off as much as I can off my to do lists. If you’re like me, you’ve got a few (or many) tech tasks you’ve been putting off, not necessarily because they take a lot of time, but during the busy year, it’s easy to find other things that require your attention that are more important.
With the new year upon us, here are 10 simple tech tasks to tackle that will help make your life a little easier and more organized as you say hello to 2017.
1. Label charging cables
With all the gadgets we’ve accumulated over the years, we’ve got waaaaay too many cables, chargers, and cords stuffed in drawers and baskets. Save yourself so much time and take a few minutes to figure out what they’re for. Then, toss the ones you don’t need and label the ones you do. You don’t need anything fancy; masking tape and a Sharpie will do. But you will find plenty of gadgets, like Dotz cord identifiers (above and top), that can add a little fun and color to a fairly menial task.
2. Check your notifications – and turn them off?
If you’re thinking about heading into the new year with fewer tech distractions, one smart way to be successful right off the bat is to manage your notifications. We suggest turning off notifications for your social networks (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Slack, whatever you use), and if you’re extra serious, set up Do Not Disturb settings on your phone so only the important texts and calls get through at certain times of the day.
3. Clean your tech
Just the thought of all the fingers on your smartphone or tablet should be enough motivation to disinfect them all. And with the latest news that your smartphone may have five times more germs than a toilet seat? Well…ew.
We’re big fans of WHOOSH Screen Shine which never lets us down. Or for something you can just grab at your local grocery store or stash in a carry-on bag, look for the very effective Windex electronics wipes. Don’t forget to clean up your kids’ gadgets too.
4. Free up memory on your gadgets
Make room for all the new photos and videos that are sure to come in 2017 by freeing up some of the memory on your gadgets. We’ve got simple instructions for how to free up space on your phone or tablet, but even simply deleting photos, old albums you don’t listen to, and apps you’re not using is a good place to start. And really, it doesn’t take long at all. Plus you’ve hopefully got it all backed up in the cloud. Right?
5. Tackle cord tangles
We’ve featured no shortage of cord organizers on Cool Mom Tech over the years, all of which can masterfully tackle the cord tangles and nests you’ve got. From the Soba Cord Bundler, which is great for desk tops and counters, to Applecore or the cute leather Cord Taco, which are great for backpacks, handbags and travel bags, you’ll be amazed at how much better life is when you’re not spending energy untangling your earbuds every day.
6. Clean out your inbox
While we might not be able to get you to inbox zero without declaring wholesale email bankruptcy, we’ve got a few tricks up our sleeve to help you get pretty close. We’ve been longtime fans of Unroll.me, which can help you cut down on unnecessary email subscriptions and junk email and really works well over the long term. Also, you’ll want to try Liz’s favorite inbox zero trick if you’re a Gmail user; she does every single January and swears by it. Just make sure you keep your Cool Mom Tech email subscription. (Not that it would ever cross your mind to unsubscribe. Heh.)
7. Set up one central charging station
I cannot tell you how many times the words “Have you seen a charger?” are uttered in my home over the course of the week, which is why I’m determined to set-up a central charging station once and for all. We’ve featured a roundup with a few very cool charging stations that can fit a bunch of devices at one time, as well as the Quirky Converge Power Station and the Power Dock 5 – but take a peek at all of them to see which one works best for your family.
8. Backup your data
So. When’s the last time you backed up all your important documents and photos to a safe place? If you can’t remember, then you’ll want to be sure you do this stat. Along with backing-up your gadgets to the Cloud, it’s also worth investing in an external hard drive and getting every app, document and file you don’t want to lose stored there too. Just in case your child spills water all over your computer and you go into an hour-long panic. Or was that just me a couple of months ago?
9. Organize your photos
These days, there are plenty of apps to help you organize your photos, not to mention the newest iOS versions that have all sorts of handy tools that pretty much do it for you. So really, you might not even need to much photo organization, other than go through and delete those photos you don’t really need.
See also: the 5109 selfies my kids took this year.
I do suggest grabbing your best of the year and turning them into an actual printed photo book. Services like ChatBooks do it for you saving you the time and hassle, and the result is something you’ll love having on your shelf or displaying on your coffee table.
10. Purge your social media accounts
Wait, you mean the election didn’t force you to do this already? But seriously, if you’re going to spend time on social media, make sure you’re following those people and pages you still really want to follow. We’ve found Instagram and Twitter are pretty easy when it comes to unfollowing without anyone taking note — unless they’re actively using one of those follower management services like Friend or Follow, which you can too. Though honestly, unless you use your accounts for business, it seems like a lot of energy going into tracking who unfollows you when it doesn’t really make a big difference in your life.
For Facebook, if you need to stop seeing someone’s updates without completely severing ties, try using “unfollow posts” on that person’s profile versus the “unfriend” feature, which keeps your relationship intact while sparing you the indignity of one more request for Candy Crush lives.